There are different types of sugar that we consume in our regular diets.
There is glucose, a not-too-terrible sugar that the body is decent at metabolizing. Then there is fructose, a more-terrible sugar that humans are not good at metabolizing. It's fructose that research has linked to diabetes, obesity and liver disease.
Sodas, a new study shows, are loaded up on the latter type of sugar that our bodies are terrible at processing.
Soda manufacturers don't have to disclose how much of their sugar is fructose or glucose, so a team of researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Los Angeles' Public Health Division and University of Southern California decided to measure it. They went to a store in East Los Angeles and, as many consumers would, purchased some Sprite, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi and seven other popular drinks. And then they had three independent labs measure the fructose and glucose content of each.
Their analysis found that fructose makes up, on average, 59 percent of the total sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages. Beverage makers have previously claimed that their drinks are a pretty even balance between fructose and glucose. But in this study we're learning, for the first time, that the sugar in soda is mostly sugar our body is terrible at processing.
"Given that Americans drink 45 gallons of soda a year, it's important for us to have a more accurate understanding of what we're actually drinking," says Michael Goran, one of the researchers on the study.
One of his suggestions: adding information to soda labels about the fructose and glucose content of the beverages, to give consumers a better idea of what they're actually drinking.
There are other policy levers that could take more aggressive steps to limit soda consumption altogether, like a specific tax on soda or regulating it like a drug. You can read more coverage about those ideas here and here.