By Aly Walansky
Updated February 17, 2016
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Credit: © Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

There’s a reason we can’t resist that delicious venti white chocolate mocha at Starbucks: It contains as much as 18 teaspoons of sugar.

British-based action group Action on Sugar analyzed 131 hot drinks at various cafés and found a third contained as much sugar as a can of soda (which contains 9 teaspoons). The top offender was Starbucks with its venti Hot Mulled Fruit beverage coming in at a whooping 25 teaspoons.

It's "yet again another example of scandalous amounts of sugar added to our food and drink," said Professor Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, chair of Action on Sugar, in the findings.

While we all love our hot cocoas and lattes, are we doing more damage than they are worth? “Starbucks sugar drinks are basically America’s new sodas. The high caffeine and high sugar levels will lead the consumer to want to buy another… and Starbucks knows this,” says Dr. Philip Goglia, a top nutritionist and author of Turn up the Heat - Unlock the Fat Burning Power of Your Metabolism. “The combination of caffeine and sugar leads to an increase in serotonin response, which are those good happy feelings you get. Plus, the caffeine increases your energy levels for a brief amount of time. These combinations create addictive drinks. In addition, since caffeine is a natural diuretic, this requires more water needed daily.”

To have 25 grams of sugar in a beverage will adversely affect insulin response and raise your chances for Type 2 Diabetes if you are already insulin-sensitive. And the biggest risk? “Any 12-year-old can walk in and get this drink. Adults can make their own informed decisions, but children don’t know. This is directly affecting our pediatrics. I have a child that is 15 years old and I would never give them one of these beverages,” says Dr. Goglia.

And this easy access to excessive amounts of sugar is feeding our addiction. “Recent reports, including Action on Sugar, show Starbucks seems to be ‘winning’ the sugar championship and that is bad news for people's health. The staggering amount of sugar in their drinks directly stimulates the addiction center in the brain leading people to eat more of everything, not just Starbucks, and leading to obesity and diabetes, the two most important health issues confronting the American public today,” says Bruce Roseman, M.D., author of The Addictocarb Diet.

Starbucks responded to the study and FWx stating that they will be weening customers of sugar: "Over the next five years we plan to reduce the average added sugar by five percent across our indulgent beverages each year. Reducing average added sugar will be made with taste and quality at the center. By taking a five year approach we can thoughtfully and methodically meet our customer’s expectations for consistent flavor and quality." By 2020, the coffee company plans on reducing the added sugar in their "indulgent beverages by 25 percent".

So go ahead and finish that blended beverage you bought on your lunch break, but savor it. You may want to wait a bit before indulging in the next one. 2020 is still a ways away.