Surprise! Frappuccinos And Coolatas Are Not Health Food

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just released the findings of a 2007 study on “blended coffee beverages” served by Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. The conclusion: “Calories in blended coffee beverages are high … modifying standard formulations of blended coffee beverages, such as using low-fat milk or smaller serving sizes, would also reduce calorie content.” Um, yeah.

The New York City-funded study looked at 1,127 Starbucks purchases and 1,830 from Dunkin’ Donuts, and included surveys of customers at 42 Starbucks and 73 Dunkin Donuts. After reviewing the data, the CDC concluded:

Blended coffee beverages have many more calories than does a brewed cup of coffee or tea, to which calories are introduced mainly from added milk or sugar. One high-calorie blended coffee beverage sold at Starbucks is the Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino Blended Crème; the largest size (“venti,” 24 oz) with whipped cream contains 750 kcal, or approximately 38% of the 2,000-kcal diet often used as a benchmark for total daily calorie intake. A large Dunkin’ Donuts Vanilla Bean Coolatta (32 oz) contains 860 kcal.

While most of the data collected by the CDC might seem obvious to anyone who’s ever tasted one of these drinks, the agency does make some good points about how coffee chains could offer customers lower-calorie alternatives:

Small changes on the industry’s part could also help reduce calorie intake. The high calorie content of blended coffee beverages is attributable in part to the large portion sizes. At Dunkin’ Donuts, the sizing for small, medium, and large ice-blended drinks is 16 oz, 24 oz, and 32 oz, respectively, and the average calorie content we calculated was 397 kcal. However, if Dunkin’ Donuts adopted Starbucks sizing of 12 oz, 16 oz, and 24 oz for its ice-blended beverages, the average calories in beverages offered would drop to 285 kcal.

The report also acknowledged efforts undertaken by both Starbucks and Dunkin’ to introduce lower-calories drinks. In the end, though, the findings were somewhat inconclusive, stating that the drinks “most likely contribute to the obesity epidemic.” Hmm. Sounds like it’s time for another study.

Calories From Beverages Purchased at 2 Major Coffee Chains in New York City, 2007 [CDC via Gothamist]
(Photo: basheertome)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.