Vitality

Plain Yogurt Sprinkled With Sugar, Honey May Lead To Serious Health Problems

Sweet Yogurt
Some yogurt toppings are the equivalent of high-sugar desserts. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, public domain

In France, where yogurt is considered one of the most popular and (generally) healthy treats, consumers have been known to lessen the sour taste with sugary topping — mostly table sugar, honey, and jam. It may seem like a healthy alternative to pre-packaged containers, but French researchers from AgroParisTech have recently found that's not always the case.

For the study, published in the journal Appetite, researchers invited 199 normal and overweight men and women, respectively, to lunch and dinner events. At the end of the meal, participants were given a small serving of plain yogurt (4.4 ounces) in the original brand container, and they were allowed to sweeten it with their usual sweetener: table sugar, honey, or jam. Researchers weighed the sweeteners before and after each participant's meal to account for how much each person used.

The results showed participants with a higher body mass index (BMI), which is a scale used to gauge healthy or unhealthy weight, tended to add more sugary toppings than participants who were considered a normal weight.

Next, participants were asked to report how much sugar, honey, and jam they believed they added to their plain yogurt using a coffee spoon for measurement. Forty-five percent of diners reported using one coffee spoon of toppings, while 32 percent reported two spoons; 18 percent reported half a spoon; 5 percent reported three spoons; and 1 percent reported more than three spoons. 

Overall, participants grossly underestimated how much sweetener they sprinkled or drizzled on their yogurt. Researchers found they served themselves nearly twice as many sugar toppings as they thought they did, mounting up to an average of 13.6 grams (g) of sugar.

Diners who chose jam as their yogurt topping tended to add more than those who sprinkled on table sugar or honey — but all diners tended to add more sugar than what's found in pre-sweetened yogurts, about 10.2 g of added sugar. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent of their total calories; however, keeping it below 5 percent (25 g) would provide additional health benefits.

According to Harvard Medical School, diets that get 25 percent of added sugar are twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who consume less than 10 percent of added sugar. Sugar delivers empty calories bereft of vitamins, minerals, and any other nutrients.

When it comes to the United States' yogurt preferences, people tend to buy pre-sweetened yogurt. And according to these new findings, it may sometimes be better than the plain yogurt people like to sweeten themselves.

It's a good thing then Medical Daily has already rounded up the healthiest yogurts you can eat.

Source: Delarue J, Saint-Eve A, Leclercq H, Berthelo S, Saulnier B, and Oettgen W. How much sugar do consumers add to plain yogurts? Insights from a study examining French consumer behavior and self-reported habits. Appetite. 2016.

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