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Claim that oat milk has more sugar than Coca-Cola is misleading

Oat milk is a popular new beverage, but a social media post claims it has more added sugar than soft drinks.
Credit: AP
This March 2, 2015 photo shows uncooked oats in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Lactose intolerance, among other reasons, has led to people choosing milk substitutes that meet their dietary needs. One of those new substitutes is oat milk, made from whole oats.  

But a viral tweet claims oat milk is not a healthy food. The tweet claims a brand of oat milk has more sugar than Coca-Cola. 

THE QUESTION

Does oat milk have more sugar than Coca-Cola? 

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This claim is misleading. The information in the article cited in the tweet presents misleading information, according to Dr. Melina Jampolis. 

WHAT WE FOUND

The article cited in the viral tweet says oat milk (from brand Oatly, specifically) contains maltose, which has a higher glycemic index than sugar in Coca-Cola. 

Glycemic index is defined by Harvard Health as a value assigned to foods based on “how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels.” 

VERIFY sent the tweet and article to board-certified nutritionist and author Dr. Melina Jampolis. She said the claim of sugar in the Oatly oat milk is accurate on its face value, “but it’s completely misrepresented.” 

The term “added sugar,” Jampolis explained, is used by the brand to identify the maltose in the product. Maltose is a natural sugar that is present in many cereals, and occurs in oat milk after oats are processed. 

Any company needs to name it per requirement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when it comes to labeling the nutrition facts of any food product.

The Oatly website explains that the sugar in its oat milk is produced during the enzymatic production process, which breaks the starches in the oats down into “simple sugar like maltose, similar to how the human body uses enzymes to break starches into sugars during digestion.” 

The FDA said oat milks vary in sugar content depending on the brand, so it’s up to consumers to check the nutrition facts label to determine how much sugar is in a particular brand of oat milk. 

“The FDA is responsible for assuring that foods sold in the United States are safe, wholesome and properly labeled,” a representative from the FDA said. 

Dr. Jampolis recommended that when choosing or consuming milk substitutes to check out the protein content, as some of these “milks” are lower in protein. 

“Don't look to these milk replacements unless they're fortified to be a source of protein, like regular milk would be,” she said. “The only one that is an adequate source of protein would be soy milk, where depending on the product can have about eight grams of protein.”

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