Application note 202001: sugar in drinks

Many of us are aware that fizzy drinks can contain many tablespoons of processed sugar, but in other drinks the sugar content might be less obvious. How can we tell how much added sugar a drink has?

Milkshakes are a good example of drinks that might be assumed, at first sight, to be healthy. They are based on milk after all, and milk is good for us, right? Milk contains calcium for bones and teeth and lots of other minerals as well as vitamins and proteins that play important roles in our body. But milkshakes can sometimes be added with added ingredients that are less healthy.

JBL Science recently worked with a media company who wanted to find out how much sugar there is in milkshakes from fast food restaurants. We developed methods based on ion chromatography and NMR spectroscopy to identify and quantify the different sugars present. These methods were applied to several milkshakes from different restaurants and the method and results are laid out in our latest application note, which can be downloaded below.

As expected, we found that all milkshakes contained lactose - this is the main sugar in milk. Data from both ion chromatography and NMR spectroscopy provide absolute identification of this particular sugar, and the size of the signals detected allow the amount of lactose to be determined.

However, both chromatography and spectroscopy can also definitively identified other added sugars, included sucrose and glucose, which were sometimes present at high levels too. These sugars are both added to drinks such as milkshakes to make them sweeter, often to the detriment of our teeth and our waistlines.

Our new methods provide robust, reproducible and accurate measures of different sugars in drinks, and the methods can also be applied to liquids of many different types.

To read the full application note, download the PDF file by clicking here

For further information, please get in touch through the contact form or contact the lead scientist Dr. Andy Gill

This work will feature on a forthcoming episode of Food Unwrapped, to be aired later in 2020

The lead image is used under a Creative Commons licence. Image 'Peach Melba Milkshake' author @joefoodie from USA, more at

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