Soda Has a Lot Less Sugar If You’re Not in the United States

A can of Dr. Pepper in the U.S. has 36 grams of the sweet stuff, but in Germany, the same product has 22 grams.

Vendor selling soda in Vietnam. (Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/Getty Images)

Oct 2, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

The labels may be the same, but depending on where you are in the world, the amount of sugar in a particular brand of soda varies significantly—which means if the bottling behemoths that produce soft drinks wanted to, they could reduce the amount of the sweet stuff in beverages across the board.

That’s the main takeaway of an analysis of 274 sugar-sweetened soft drinks by Action on Sugar, a U.K.-based activist group. The group calculated the amount of sugar in a standard amount of soda: 330 milliliters, the amount sold in a can in Europe, or about 11.1 ounces. (Yes, it's smaller than the 12-ounce can sold to U.S. consumers.)

RELATED: ‘Share a Coke With Obesity’ Bottle Gets Real About Effects of Drinking Soda

The group found that overall, 88 percent of the products analyzed had more than the entire recommended daily serving of sugar. Just one 330-milliliter Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or 7Up contained more than 25 grams of sugar, or about six teaspoons, which exceeds consumption recommendations in every country. In the majority of instances, the amount of sugar in the drinks the group analyzed was highest in North American countries and lowest across Europe, where activists and health organizations have had more success influencing the amount of the substance in drinks.

But where the data takes a fascinating turn is the country-to-country comparison of the amounts of sugar in the drinks. Head to Thailand and drink a can of Sprite, and you’ll down 47 grams of sugar. But a can of Sprite in Austria or Poland has 19 grams of sugar.

Can’t get enough Dr. Pepper in the U.S.? You’re swallowing 36 grams of sugar per serving, significantly more than the 22 grams the same product contains in Germany.

If you’re a fan of Fanta Orange, in India and Vietnam you’ll be drinking 43 grams of sugar in a serving, but in the U.K., Ireland, and Argentina, a can has 32 grams.

RELATED: Soft Drink to Hard Candy: Watch a Soda Turn Into a Lollipop

The biggest differences were measured in Schweppes Tonic Water. You’ll sip 45 grams of sugar—it’s essentially sugar water—in a serving in the United States. Meanwhile, in Argentina, the same amount has 16 grams of sugar.

As for the big two, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, the differences in sugar amounts aren’t as drastic. A can of Coke in Canada has 39 grams of sugar—the highest for Coke in the world—and in the U.S. it has 36 grams. In Thailand, it has slightly less, 32 grams, the smallest amount of all the nations measured. A can of Pepsi purchased in Japan contains 39 grams of sugar, while in the U.K., Greece, Serbia, or Switzerland, the same can has 32 grams.

Action on Sugar cites the connection between sweetened drinks and sky-high obesity rates around the world as a reason beverage companies should reduce the amount of sugar in their products.

“Overweight and obesity increases health care costs and threatens the economic growth on which a country’s future prosperity and well-being depend,” said Action on Sugar head Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary, University of London, in a statement.

The response from the American Beverage Association is representative of the industry’s stance in Canada and the U.K.: “Soda doesn’t make you gain weight, calories do.”