Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Tang Bad For You?

Also Known As: Tang orange drink



Short answer

Tang contains high sugar, including high-fructose corn syrup, which can lead to health issues like type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and dental caries. Its artificial additives may exacerbate hyperactivity and carry potential long-term health risks. Although Tang provides vitamin C, the health risks from sugars and additives outweigh the benefits, making low-sugar beverages a healthier choice.



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Long answer

Sugar Content in Tang and Its Health Implications

When assessing the health implications of Tang, an orange-flavored drink mix, it's crucial to analyze its sugar content. A typical serving of Tang, which measures about two tablespoons or the amount needed to make one 8-ounce glass, contains approximately 23 grams of sugar. To put this into perspective, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that men limit their daily intake to 36 grams of added sugar and women to 25 grams.

The high sugar content in Tang could have several health implications:

  • Blood Sugar Spikes: Consuming a glass of Tang can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, which, if consumed frequently, can strain the body's insulin response and may eventually contribute to insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
  • Weight Gain: Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages like Tang is associated with increased body weight and obesity, primarily due to their high caloric content and low satiety, potentially leading to increased overall caloric intake.
  • Heart Health: Studies suggest there is a link between high intake of added sugars and an increase in risk factors for heart disease, including elevated blood pressure, inflammation, and triglyceride levels.
  • Dental Health: Sugary drinks are notorious for contributing to dental caries (tooth decay) due to the role sugar plays in feeding oral bacteria that produce harmful acids.
  • Nutritional Displacement: Choosing sugar-laden drinks like Tang over more nutrient-dense beverages, such as water or milk, may result in a displacement effect, leading to insufficient intake of essential nutrients.

Further exacerbating the issue, Tang contains added sugars, specifically fructose, in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS has been scrutinized by health experts for its potential health risks, which may be more pronounced than those associated with other sugars due to its unique metabolic processing in the liver. This could add additional strain on the liver, potentially leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) when consumed in excessive amounts.

While Tang does provide vitamin C and select other micronutrients, it's important to weigh these benefits against the health risks associated with its high sugar content. Opting for beverages with lower sugar content or, better yet, no added sugars, can be a healthier choice to support overall wellbeing.

To mitigate the potential negative health effects, individuals should be mindful of their total daily consumption of added sugars from all sources, not just Tang, and consider healthier alternatives when possible. For instance, preparing fresh orange juice or infused water could offer some of the desired flavors without the substantial sugar load.

As we become more health-conscious, it's essential to understand the role that drink mixes like Tang can play in one's diet and the possible long-term health implications of regular consumption. Awareness and moderation are keys when considering the inclusion of high-sugar beverages in a balanced diet.

Presence of Artificial Colors and Flavorings

The presence of artificial colors and flavorings in any food or beverage product is a frequent point of concern for health-conscious consumers. This is particularly relevant when discussing powdered drink mixes like Tang. To appeal to consumers, Tang is typically enhanced with these artificial additives to achieve its vibrant color and citrus taste.

Artificial colors common in products such as Tang include Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, which are used to create the orange hue reminiscent of natural orange juice. Research has indicated potential health risks associated with these artificial colorings. For example, some studies have suggested a link between artificial food colorings and increased hyperactivity in children. The European Food Safety Authority has re-evaluated the safety of food dyes and has established acceptable daily intakes (ADIs) for these compounds, but concerns remain.

Yellow 5, also known as tartrazine, is of particular concern to individuals with aspirin intolerances or allergies, as it can provoke allergic reactions or asthma symptoms in susceptible individuals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a warning label for foods containing tartrazine for this reason.

Yellow 6, another dye found in Tang, has been scrutinized for potential carcinogenic effects. Although conclusive evidence in humans is lacking, some animal studies have raised concerns. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found that high levels of Yellow 6 could cause adrenal tumors in animals.

Apart from colors, artificial flavorings are also a part of Tang's ingredient makeup. These chemical compounds mimic the flavor of natural orange juice but without the nutritional benefits that come from natural sources. Although FDA-regulated, some health advocates argue that artificial flavorings can contribute to chemical sensitivities and might have undiscovered health implications if consumed excessively.

The impact of these artificial additives on long-term health is still a subject of debate, and more research is needed. While occasional consumption of these colorings and flavorings in low quantities is considered safe by regulatory agencies, the cumulative effects of daily intake from various food sources are not well understood. Those wishing to avoid these additives should look for products labeled as free from artificial colors and flavors or opt for natural alternatives that color and flavor products using fruit extracts, spices, or vegetable-derived substances.

  • Yellow 5 (Tartrazine) - An artificial dye linked to allergic reactions and hyperactivity.
  • Yellow 6 - A dye with controversial animal studies suggesting possible carcinogenic effects.
  • Artificial flavorings - Chemical compounds that mimic natural flavors without providing nutritional benefits.

Ascorbic Acid: Vitamin C or Just Another Additive?

Ascorbic acid, predominantly known as Vitamin C, is a vital nutrient found in various fruits and vegetables. It's an essential vitamin, meaning our bodies cannot produce it, yet it plays a crucial role in numerous bodily functions. In the context of products like Tang and similar powdered drink mixes, ascorbic acid serves a dual purpose - as a nutritional supplement and as a preservative to increase shelf life. Let's delve into the facets of ascorbic acid to understand its role as both a vitamin and an additive.

Firstly, Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, substances that can lead to oxidative stress and various health issues, including heart disease and cancer. Ascorbic acid is also integral to collagen production, aiding in the healing of wounds and the maintenance of healthy skin, cartilage, teeth, and bones. Moreover, it enhances the absorption of non-heme iron, the type of iron present in plant-based foods, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with dietary restrictions or preferences that exclude animal products.

From a nutritional standpoint, the presence of ascorbic acid in Tang suggests that the drink can contribute to the daily recommended intake (RDI) of Vitamin C. For adults, the RDI for Vitamin C is 65 to 90 milligrams per day, and an upper limit of 2,000 milligrams a day to avoid potential side effects such as digestive discomfort or kidney stones. A single serving of Tang typically offers a significant percentage of these daily requirements, which can be beneficial for those who struggle to consume enough fruits and vegetables.

However, ascorbic acid also functions as a food additive. In this role, it acts as a preservative, preventing the oxidation of ingredients, which can lead to spoilage and degradation of flavor, color, and texture. Its inclusion maintains product quality over time. The distinction here is critical - as an additive, the concentration of ascorbic acid is governed less by nutritional requirements and more by manufacturing needs to ensure shelf stability and product appeal.

While the use of ascorbic acid as an additive is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, consumers should consider the nutritional context in which they are ingesting it. A 2014 study published in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" found that synthetic ascorbic acid in fortified foods and supplements may not provide the same health benefits as naturally occurring Vitamin C in foods like oranges and bell peppers. Synthetically derived ascorbic acid may lack the accompanying bioflavonoids present in natural sources, which are compounds that may enhance its effectiveness.

It's also worth noting that despite the potential benefits of added Vitamin C in supplements like Tang, these products often contain high levels of sugar and artificial flavors, which can offset the positive effects of the vitamin. Consumption of sugary beverages is linked to numerous health concerns, including an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay, as evidenced by multiple studies including those outlined by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In summary, when evaluating the presence of ascorbic acid in beverages like Tang, it's essential to consider both its contribution to Vitamin C intake and its role as an additive. The balance between nutritional benefit and potential health implications from other ingredients in the product is a key factor for consumers to weigh. Furthermore, prioritizing whole food sources of nutrients wherever possible is a widely endorsed approach by nutrition experts for maintaining optimal health.

Tang's Link to Dental Erosion

Dental erosion, or the gradual loss of the hard part of our teeth due to acidic substances, is a dental condition that can be exacerbated by certain dietary choices. When discussing the erosive potential of beverages, it's crucial to consider both the acidity of the drink and the frequency with which it is consumed.

Tang, being a fruit-flavored drink, contains citric acid, which is commonly used as a flavor enhancer and preservative. Citric acid, while natural and relatively safe in moderation, is known for its erosive effects on tooth enamel. This raises some concerns regarding the oral health implications of regularly consuming Tang.

Research has shown that the acidity of beverages plays a significant role in dental erosion. According to Journal of the American Dental Association, drinks with a pH lower than 3.0 are particularly erosive, while those with a pH between 3.0 and 4.0 pose a moderate risk.

  • Acidity Level: Tang has a pH level of approximately 2.9, placing it just at the threshold of being highly erosive to dental enamel.
  • Frequency of Exposure: Frequent sipping or holding the drink in the mouth can increase the risk of erosion as the teeth are subjected to a longer exposure to the acidic components.
  • Protective Factors: Saliva acts as a natural buffer against acid. However, when acidic drinks are consumed too often, saliva may not be able to protect the enamel effectively.
  • Individual Susceptibility: Some individuals may have enamel that is more resistant to acid, while others may be more prone to erosion.

While Tang can contribute to dental erosion, it's also important to consider the role of dental hygiene habits. Proper oral care, including brushing with fluoride toothpaste, can help mitigate some of the damage from acidic foods and drinks.

In conclusion, while the occasional glass of Tang may not pose a significant threat to dental health, frequent consumption, especially in the absence of good oral hygiene practices, could contribute to the development of dental erosion over time. It's highly recommended to consume acidic drinks like Tang in moderation, use a straw to minimize contact with teeth, rinse the mouth with water after consumption, and maintain consistent oral hygiene practices to protect the teeth from potential damage.

Always consult with a dental professional if you have concerns about your oral health or the effects of specific dietary choices on your teeth.

Comparing Tang to Natural Fruit Juices and Water

When deciding if Tang, a popular powdered drink mix, is a healthy choice, it's important to compare its nutritional value to that of natural fruit juices and water. Both alternatives have distinct benefits and drawbacks in terms of nutrient content, hydration, and overall health impact.

Nutritional Content:

  • Vitamin C: Tang is fortified with Vitamin C, offering a significant amount per serving. In contrast, natural fruit juices provide Vitamin C naturally but the amount can vary widely depending on the type of fruit and processing methods.
  • Sugar Content: Many natural fruit juices contain natural sugars, which can be high depending on the juice. Tang, on the other hand, contains added sugars or artificial sweeteners, which might be a concern for those monitoring their sugar intake.
  • Calories: Tang tends to have fewer calories compared to natural fruit juices due to its lower natural sugar content; however, the calorie count can still add up when consumed in large amounts. Water is calorie-free and thus a superior choice for calorie-conscious individuals.
  • Artificial Additives: Unlike natural fruit juices, Tang contains artificial flavors and colors, which some individuals may prefer to avoid due to health concerns or dietary restrictions.


  • Water is the most efficient hydrator and is essential for bodily functions. It lacks nutrients but is unparalleled for hydration without added calories or sugars.
  • Natural fruit juices can contribute to hydration but also provide a significant sugar intake, which might not be desirable for all individuals.
  • Tang, when mixed with water, can encourage increased fluid intake in those who prefer flavored beverages, but it should not replace water intake due to its sugar and artificial additives.

Overall Health Impact:

  • Water is crucial to maintain health, aiding in digestion, nutrient absorption, and detoxification processes within the body.
  • Natural fruit juices offer vitamins and minerals but should be consumed in moderation because of their high sugar content, which is linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders when overconsumed.
  • The consumption of Tang can provide hydration and some vitamins, yet it is not as nutritionally dense as natural fruit juices, and the presence of added sugars and artificial ingredients makes it a less desirable option for daily consumption.

Studies have shown that fortifying beverages with vitamins does not necessarily compensate for other nutritional shortcomings. According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, nutrient-rich whole foods are generally a better source of vitamins and minerals compared to fortified foods and beverages.

Furthermore, the American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars to avoid the risk of chronic diseases associated with high sugar intake, regardless of the source. Natural fruit juices, despite their sugar content, lack the added sugars that are present in products like Tang.

As for hydration, health authorities consistently promote water as the best option for maintaining proper hydration levels throughout the day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests choosing water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages to help with weight management and reduce calorie intake.

In summary, while Tang can be a convenient and tasty beverage that supplies certain nutrients, it falls short in comparison to natural fruit juices regarding nutritional density and lacks the hydration effectiveness of water, all aspects crucial to consider for maintaining a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, Tang contains artificial colors such as Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, which have been linked to increased hyperactivity in some children. Parents concerned about food dyes' potential effects on child behavior may want to limit or avoid beverages like Tang with these additives.

Tang contains high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which, when consumed in excessive amounts, may contribute to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). HFCS is metabolized by the liver, and overconsumption can lead to fat accumulation and liver stress. Therefore, it's advisable to consume Tang in moderation to lower the risk of NAFLD.

While ascorbic acid in Tang does provide Vitamin C, synthetic ascorbic acid may not offer the same health benefits as naturally occurring Vitamin C found in fruits and vegetables. Natural sources contain bioflavonoids that can enhance the vitamin's effectiveness, which are not present in the synthetic form. It's generally recommended to get most of your Vitamin C from whole food sources.

While Tang is often perceived as a healthier choice than soda, both beverages typically contain high amounts of added sugars. The caloric content and low satiety associated with sugary drinks can contribute to weight gain if not consumed in moderation. For weight management, water or beverages with no added sugars are preferable choices.

Ask a question about Tang Drink and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • blood sugar spikes
  • weight gain
  • increased risk of heart disease factors
  • tooth decay
  • elevated blood pressure
  • inflammation
  • higher triglyceride levels

Possible long-term side effects

  • insulin resistance
  • obesity
  • non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (nafld)
  • dental erosion
  • potential hyperactivity in children
  • risk of allergic reactions to yellow 5
  • possible carcinogenic effects of yellow 6

Ingredients to be aware of


  • provides vitamin c
  • enhances iron absorption

Healthier alternatives

  • fresh orange juice
  • infused water
  • water
  • natural fruit juices

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

TRUE LEMON Fruit Punch

  • Low sugar content
  • No preservatives
  • Kid-friendly hydration
  • Natural flavoring
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-06-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-06-2024

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