DRHOOK- Frap flap: Beware calories in sweet cafe drinks

the handsome doctor John Hong of Charlottesville

"Mocha choca lata ya ya." Sing it, Lady Marmalade! 

I never knew what a mocha was until I was in college. (Then again, I didn't know what brie was either, until one time when I ate practically an entire wheel at a college function. Mmm.) Back then, coffee was something that came from a jar of Nescafe. Some people might add sugar or milk, but that was about it.

 Flash forward 20 years, and now plain old-fashioned coffee is scorned. When I go to a coffee shop and order a "tall" coffee (you can't get a "short" coffee anymore– that would mean serving coffee in a thimble), the barista always frowns in confusion. 

"Ah, do you want anything in it? A pump of ultra-sweet exotic whatever? Whipped cream?" No, just plain old coffee.

Are all the calories we're drinking adding to our rising national obesity problem?

Recently, I ordered a mocha, and they asked me three times, "Don't you want whipped cream in it?" As I waited for the mocha to arrive, I listened to what everyone else ordered. Every single drink had mucho sweetness added. It was like a scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

A tall mocha has at least 170 calories, if the milk is non-fat and there's no whipped cream. A 16-ounce mint mocha-chip frappuccino with chocolate whipped cream has 470 calories– including 58 grams of sugar. That drink contains more calories than a McDonald's hamburger, cheeseburger, Grilled Chicken Deluxe, a McDouble, a Quarter Pounder, Filet-O-Fish, medium French fries, or a Big 'N Tasty (what is that? I obviously haven't been to a McDonald's in a while). McOMG!

A 16-ounce iced Tazo Green Tea Latte has 43 grams of sugar. A 16-ounce Starbucks lemonade has 60 grams of sugar.

A teaspoon of sugar (4.2 grams) helps the medicine go down (thank you, Mary Poppins). So if you drink that frap I mentioned—you're getting 13.8 teaspoons of granulated sugar!

To make things worse, it really appears that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contributes to diabetes and obesity. Unlike normal fructose found in fruit, HFCS goes straight into the abdomen to create fat, and abdominal fat is a huge risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. A recent, though small, study in California showed production of new fat cells around the digestive organs and heart in those who consumed HFCS vs. traditional glucose sugar. 

More than 20 percent of calories in American diets are from HFCS, about 73.5 pounds a year. A direct correlation between HFCS and obesity has been established since it became commercially available in the 1960s. HFSC consumption has increased 2100 percent, and obesity has doubled during this time as well (and being overweight, too). During this time, fiber consumption has decreased 40 percent. Got bran, anyone?

People think juice and sports drinks are a better option than soda in a vending machine, but most of these drinks also have tons of sugar. Also folks need to learn how to read nutritional information. The data on the side of a can, jar, or bottle pertains to one serving, and many drinks have 2.5 servings in the bottle. So when you do the math, you realize you're consuming way more than you realize.

Maybe we aren't going to need teeth anymore because Americans are consuming so many of their calories in drinks (and sugar rots teeth). It's like that movie, WALL-E, in which everyone is obese and slurping down some drink. This is a hard truth to swallow.


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.


1 comment

I hope Dr. Hook is not paid for these ridiculous articles. Thanks for telling us what we already know!