Sugar cube challenge: Health professionals in N.L. target sweet drinks

A coalition of health care providers in Newfoundland and Labrador says people don't always know they are drinking "sugar bombs."

Sugar cube challenge aims to reduce obesity and improve health

The Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation is challenging people to drink less than 12 teaspoons of sugar a day. (CBC)

A coalition of health care providers in Newfoundland and Labrador has launched a campaign calling on everyone to drink less sugar, and to be aware of the "sugar bombs" that may lurk in surprising places.

The association representing the province's doctors says it joined the Heart and Stoke Foundation's Sugar Cube Challenge because it believes sugar consumption is taking a heavy toll.

"We are very concerned about obesity rates in this province and we know that sugary drinks are one of the biggest contributors to sugar in our diets," said Dr. Lynn Dwyer, incoming president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association.

Dr. Lynn Dwyer of the province's Medical Association says sweet drinks contribute to obesity. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

Soft drinks contain up to 12 teaspoons or cubes of sugar per can. Energy drinks can contain up to 21 teaspoons of sugar.

They don't realize how big of a sugar bomb those smoothies actually are.- Nicole Kielly, dental hygenists assoc.

In 2014, Statistics Canada reported that about 30 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador residents are obese, the highest in the country. 

The Heart and Stoke foundation, the Canadian Cancer society, dentists and dental hygienists and the NLMA say eating too much sugar is unhealthy and a lot of it is coming from surprising sources.

Nicole Kielly is the president of Newfoundland and Labrador's Dental Hygienist Association. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"There are a few sneaky ones like smoothies. Especially when they are pre-manufactured. People feel like they are making a healthy choice but they don't realize how big of a sugar bomb those smoothies actually are," said Nicole Kielly, president of the province's dental hygienists association.

Other drinks that appear to be healthy alternatives, like vitamin water, contain up to eight cubes of sugar.

Dwyer says the sugar cube challenge is asking people to quench their thirst with water and other drinks that don't contain sugar.

"We should limit our intake of free sugar to 12 teaspoons or 12 cubes per day and to reduce it to under 6 cubes to be even healthier," she said.

The Sugar Cube Challenge organizers are distributing this guide to help people make chioces about what they drink. (CBC)