The Starbucks Sugar Overdose


The sugar content in soft drinks has drawn a lot of criticism and concern, but a new study shows that people who opt for drinks other than black coffee at Starbucks are really overdosing on sugar. In fact, Action on Sugar, a United Kingdom group found that a lot of drinks at the coffee chain’s shops have more sugar than drinks at many of other large chains in the country including McDonalds, Pret a Manger and KFC.

Sugar consumption has drawn considerable attention lately, with new U.S. nutritional guidelines and documentaries like Fed Up. In the U.K., there has also been an increased focus on sweetener use by pubic health officials and advocacy organizations such as Action on Sugar.

The group reported that one in five in England (including teenagers) go to a coffee shop daily. While coffee and teas without extras are low in calories, sugar and such, they are not what many of the coffee ship patrons are buying. So the organization reviewed the nutritional data several chains posted on their hot beverages and found alarming results, particularly at Starbucks where many drinks have an overabundant dose of sugar.

A total of 131 flavored hot drinks from several chains were reviewed in the past few weeks. A whopping 80 percent of them met or exceeded the recommended levels of sugar for a given day, and 35 percent had as much or more sugar than a Coke, a can of which has 33 grams. “This is yet again another example of scandalous amount of sugar added to our food and drink,” the advocacy group’s chairman Graham MacGregor noted.

Starbucks was found to be a top offender. Of the 131 beverages evaluated, 34 were from Starbucks. They included seven of the 10 drinks with the highest sugar content.

One of their popular signature expresso drinks – White Chocolate Mocha – has 620 calories and 75 grams of sugar in a venti size (24 ounces). Passing on the whipped cream knocks the calories down to 550, but only takes off 1 gram of sugar. Even a tall size (12 ounces) contains 46 grams of sugar.

A hot chocolate at Starbucks makes a Hershey bar look healthy. A tall hot chocolate – with no whipped cream – has 280 calories and 32 grams of sugar. A venti has 470 calories and 55 grams of sugar. By comparison, a standard Hershey’s milk chocolate bar (1.55 oz.) has 220 calories and only 24 grams of sugar.

How much sugar is too much? The American Heart Association guidelines suggest that consumption be limited to 30 grams (6 teaspoons) per day for women and 45 grams (about 9 teaspoons) for men.

Starbucks is well aware that many of its drinks contain an overdose of sugar. They already announced plans to lower the sugar content in their drinks by 25 percent by late 2020. Starbucks responded to the Action on Sugar data by reminding people about their plans to cut sugar content. Additionally, they noted, “We also offer a wide variety of lighter options, sugar-free syrups and sugar-free natural sweetener and we display all nutritional information in-store and online.”

Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss

Action on Sugar: Shocking amount of sugar found in many hot flavoured drinks
Starbucks: Menu Nutrition
Fortune: Starbucks Under Fire for Sugar Content of Drinks
CBS News: Do you know how much sugar is in your Starbucks drink?
Hersheys: Products
Coca-Cola Product Facts

Photo courtesy of Ruben Schade’s Flickr page – Creative Commons license