How will decreased sugar in Lucozade affect people with diabetes?

The makers of Lucozade Energy (Lucozade Ribena Suntory) announced in November 2016 that it would be lowering the sugar content in its drinks by more than 50 per cent. It is a decision that could have major implications for people with diabetes.

The move will be rolled out from April 2017 and the changes will apply to all Lucozade flavours.

With just weeks to go until the new products are released, people with diabetes who use Lucozade to treat low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) are facing changes.

Currently, 100ml of Lucozade Original contains 17g of carbohydrate; this will be reduced to 8.9g in April.

Those susceptible to hypos are advised to consume 15-20g of sugar when treating low blood sugar, but this will no longer be equivalent to 100ml of Lucozade.

Instead, people with diabetes are facing the prospect of using greater quantities of Lucozade to treat a hypo.

Leading charity Diabetes UK says those who treat hypos with 10g of carbohydrate will now need 110ml, while 15g of carbohydrate will require 170ml.

This situation has, of course, caused concern among the diabetes community as treatment with Lucozade will necessitate extra cost.

Most supermarkets sell a 1L bottle of Lucozade for between £1-1.50, but prices can vary considerably at high street stores and petrol stations, where a 500ml bottle can cost around £1.50.

This means treating a hypo with Lucozade may cost between 15 and 50p depending on where you buy it from.

Shortly after Lucozade Ribena Suntory’s announcement, JDRF chief executive Karen Addington announced she had written to the organisation to convey the worries of many people with type 1 diabetes.

But the new products are imminently arriving to UK stores, and this presents a crossroads for people with diabetes.

In the interim, old and new bottles may be on shelves together, with Lucozade Ribena Suntory recommending people with diabetes check labels before buying Lucozade products.

But when all the older products are no longer sold, people with diabetes will have a choice: buy supplemental Lucozade to treat hypos or use an alternative hypo treatment, such as five glucose tablets.

The company has also urged those concerned to speak to their healthcare professional to determine appropriate amounts of glucose, per person, to be taken when treating a hypo.

Lucozade Ribena Suntory, which also makes Ribena and Orangina, among other drinks, is lowering its sugar content by replacing these sugars with low-calorie sweeteners, such as aspartame.

Sugary drinks have negatively impacted the health of the nation for years, with rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes at all-time highs. A consequence of the sugar tax is that the NHS will spend less on treating any health issues resulting from sugary drink consumption.

But people with diabetes who rely on drinks like Lucozade may feel put out by the fact that they will need to buy twice as much for the same effect.

You should speak to your doctor if you are worried about how the sugar reduction could affect you, and to discuss which hypo treatments would be most suitable for you.

You can also visit www.lrsuntory.com/health for more information on Lucozade’s changing nutritional values.

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Jack Woodfield

Jack is Deputy Editor of Diabetes.co.uk and the award-winning Low Carb Program. He works hard, plays fair and sleeps whenever possible. He also has type 1 diabetes, doesn't mind being called a "diabetic", and once won a talent show for dancing to Dario G’s 1997 hit “Sunchyme”.

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