A graphic comparing a bottle of soda to 6 doughnuts is going viral and it's making people want to eat more pastries

  • A viral graphic shows how many doughnuts-worth of sugar are in various drinks.
  • Some Twitter users think the image makes doughnuts look relatively healthy.
  • Nutrition professionals caution that added sugars are different than naturally occurring sugars, and that added sugars – whether from doughnuts or colas – should be limited.
  • View INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

How many doughnuts are in your drink? It’s not a question you’ve likely asked yourself before – unless you’ve accidentally dropped your cruller in your coffee.

But a viral graphic Tweeted by Mark Mulligan, a physical therapist and founder of Anywhere Health, is raising that question. The image depicts how many doughnuts-worth of sugar are in various drinks like soda, juice, and even sweetened iced tea.

The point, presumably, is to encourage people to think twice before they mindlessly guzzle six doughnuts-worth of sugar with their lunch (or dessert). Sugar-sweetened beverages are, after all, the leading sources of added sugars in Americans’ diets, and consuming them regularly is associated with all sorts of negative health effects, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, and more, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

“He’s making a valid point by drawing people’s attention to how much sugar they would be consuming if they were to drink these beverages,” Keri Gans, a registered dietitian in New York City, told INSIDER.

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But plenty of Twitter users are interpreting the image differently and see it as permission to pound more pastries. After all, the theory goes, if you had to choose between a doughnut or 3 ounces of soda for the same amount of sugar, wouldn’t you prefer the doughnut?

There’s another concern with the graphic: Not all sugars are created equal. If the juice pictured in the graphic is 100% juice, for example, it’s not entirely fair to pit it against doughnuts, which are made with added sugars, Gans said.

“Sugar in 100% fruit juice is naturally occurring, and along with that naturally occurring sugar you have important vitamins and minerals, which you’re not going to get in a doughnut,” she said. Bonus points if you drink the fibrous pulp.

On the other hand, it is a lot easier to drink your sugar than to eat it, so opting for the doughnuts over the soda might naturally limit your sugar intake.

Still, the healthiest choice is to fill your diet with whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and other nutrients, and to opt against both the soda and the doughnuts – at least most of the time. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans caps the recommended daily intake of added sugar at 10% of your daily calories, so that’s about 200 calories if you eat 2,000 calories a day.

“There’s nothing wrong with eating an occasional doughnut or having an occasional soda,” Gans said. “It comes down to how we fuel our bodies the majority of the time.”

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