Kiwis are drinking more sugar than ever, despite the damage

A Kiwi-led study has found that sugary drinks may be more harmful for you than sugary food.

Sugar in liquid form, like soft drinks, energy drinks and fruit juice, has a higher likelihood of causing illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, gout and heart disease than in solid food, the researchers found.

The research paper, published in medical journal Obesity and authored by Kiwis Gerhard Sundborn, Bodo Lang and Simon Thornley, reviewed previous studies from around the world on sugar's harmful health risks.

They found it's easy for the body to process liquid forms of energy.

"The volume, concentration and speed in which sugar is ingested, absorbed and metabolised by our body is far greater when sugar's ingested in liquid form, compared to sugar in solid foods," Dr Sundborn, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland's School of Population Health, told Newshub.

Another finding of the study was that fruit juice may lead to higher risk for weight gain, compared with natural fruits. 

The study also found that New Zealanders' consumption of sugary drinks increased between 2002 and 2016, while rates in the United States and United Kingdom decreased.

"Here in New Zealand... we've had a decrease in soft drink consumption, however it's been offset by an increase in sports and energy drink consumption, as well as fruit juice and juice," Dr Sundborn said.

He is calling on the Government to implement a sugar tax on drinks as soon as possible to reverse this trend.

"We totally believe that a tax on sugary drinks would be justified and there's a lot of evidence to show that would be the way to go.

"Not only does it raise the relative cost of these drinks compared to healthier versions, but it also acts as a way to raise public awareness of the harms of sugar and particularly sugary drinks."

The World Health Organisation recommends a daily sugar intake of 25 grams per day for adults.

A typical energy drink contains 27g of sugar per 236ml of drink (roughly one cup), compared to 26g in the same volume of soft drink and 24g for sweetened teas and flavoured milk.

It has been estimated that there are 184,000 premature deaths each year globally attributed to sugary drinks, with most dying from diabetes.

The study concludes by recommending that a reduction in the amount of sugary drinks people consume is a simple and effective way to immediately improve their health.