Cutting out sugar in tea does not affect people’s fondness for the drink, research suggests.
Health experts found that cutting out sugar in one drastic step, or gradually reducing it over time, were both effective methods for cutting sugar consumption.
Once sugar was cut out, people still enjoyed their daily cuppa, suggesting a long-term change in behaviour was possible, researchers said.
The team, from University College London and the University of Leeds, presented their findings, which have been peer-reviewed by conference officials, at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow.
In their study, they wrote: “Excess sugar intake is a public health problem and sugar in beverages contributes substantially to total intake.
“Reducing sugar intake from beverages may therefore help to reduce overall consumption.”
They analysed data for 64 men who habitually drank tea sweetened with sugar, who followed a new protocol for one month.
The group was split equally into men who gradually reduced the sugar in their tea over the four weeks, those who quit sugar in tea in one step, and a control group who continued drinking sweet tea.
The results showed that the sugar reduction groups were able to get rid of sugar without it affecting how much they liked their tea.
Some 42% of those in the gradual reduction group quit sugar in tea, as did 36% of those who eliminated sugar in one step, and 6% of those in the control group.
The researchers concluded: “Individuals can successfully reduce the amount of sugar consumed in tea using two different behavioural strategies.
“Reducing sugar in tea doesn’t affect liking, suggesting long-term behaviour change is possible.
“Similar interventions could be used to reduce intake of sugar in other beverages such as dilutable fruit juices (eg squash), as well.”
The authors said a bigger trial was needed to confirm the findings.
Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: “Cutting down on table sugar is a very good idea.
“We get all the sugar we need from other food sources and the researchers’ findings should come as no surprise.
“Reducing the sugar gradually, allowing the taste buds to become acclimatised to the new formula, might be less of a sudden shock to the system but, as the study reports, the end result is the same.
“The bigger trial suggested by the authors may not be necessary either: one of the successes of the imposition of the sugary drinks levy a year ago is that people have already given up drinking six-packs of substantially sweetened colas and switched to buying more of the zero-sugar brands.”