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Secret Side Effects of Drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Say Dietitians

They might be delicious, but there are some serious side effects to be aware of this fall season.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Pumpkin spice lattes are the most highly anticipated fall drink, which is probably why companies like Instacart found people searching for it as early as July this year.

And while we have no intention of crushing anyone's fall dreams, it's important to take a look at what you're actually consuming when you grab a PSL from your favorite coffee shop. That way you can enjoy your favorite drink while sticking to your health goals!

We talked with some expert dietitians about the possible side effects of drinking pumpkin spice lattes, and some tips we can use to making them a bit healthier! Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss The Unhealthiest Pumpkin Spice Lattes-Ranked!

You'll probably consume more preservatives

Courtesy of Starbucks

According to Courtney D'Angelo, MS, RD author at Fit Healthy Momma, a common side effect of drinking pumpkin spice lattes is the unknown preservatives and ingredients.

"Potassium sorbate, which is a chemical used to prolong the shelf life of something, is often added to pumpkin spice syrups and sauces," says D'Angelo.

Although potassium sorbote is mostly safe to consume, some people are more sensitive to it than others.

"A report from The International Journal of Toxicology states that if you're someone who happens to be sensitive to potassium sorbate, you may experience some pretty nasty headaches after consuming it," says D'Angelo.

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You'll consume more fat

pumpkin spice latte in a to go cup

Your body needs fat to survive, so you shouldn't be afraid of it! However, D'Angelo says to be careful with how much fat you are consuming in one sitting, especially if it's paired with tons of added sugar.

For example, in a grande Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte made with 2% milk, you'll get about 14 grams of fat, which is 18% of our recommended daily value.

Again, consuming fat isn't a problem, but consuming this much with just one drink can lead to you eating more fat in your day than planned, especially because you won't be full and you aren't getting much nutritional value with your latte.

"As your body takes in the fat you've consumed from the PSL, fat particles (otherwise known as triglycerides) enter the bloodstream," says D'Angelo, "and high triglyceride levels can clog your blood vessels, lower healthy cholesterol, raise 'bad' cholesterol, and increase your risk for heart disease."

You may have stomach pain if you go for whipped cream on top


If you're someone who loves whipped cream on top of your pumpkin spice latte, then you're certainly not alone!

But aside from the added fat, whipped cream also sometimes contains a gelling agent called carrageenan, which can negatively affect your stomach according to registered dietitian nutritionist Marie Murphy, MS, RDN, CSSD.

"Carrageenan has been associated with stomach pain and adverse effects in the gastrointestinal tract," says Murphy, "so opting out of whipped cream when we can might be helpful."

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You may consume too much added sugar

starbucks iced pumpkin spice latte
Courtesy of Starbucks

"Sadly, the main ingredient in your favorite PSL is not pumpkin, it's sugar," says registered dietitian nutritionist Angela Houlie, MS, RDN, CDN.

There are 50 grams of sugar in a Starbucks grande Pumpkin Spice Latte and 55 grams in a Dunkin' Signature Pumpkin Spice Latte. According to the CDC, which recommends around 12 teaspoons of sugar per day, these lattes give you an entire day's worth of sugar in just one cup!

"While that PSL may leave you feeling warm and cozy, it's also contributing to a huge sugar rush followed by a slump," says Houlie, "so consider asking for half the amount of pumps to cut back on some of the sugar while still enjoying the flavor."

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Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha