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Thailand’s dangerous sugar addiction

Officials revealed today that an average Thai consumes about 26 teaspoons of sugar per day with most people getting their daily dose from sweet beverages.

Olivier Languepin



Thai people love sugar, they add sugar to almost every type of food or beverage they eat or drink on a daily basis.

Officials revealed today that an average Thai consumes about 26 teaspoons of sugar per day with most people getting their daily dose from sweet beverages.

As World Diabetes Day is approaching, Thai Health officials unveiled its campaign, “Flat-tummy Thais,” and encouraged citizens to consume less sugar.

Thai consumes 104 grams of sugar per day or about 26 teaspoons

Twenty-six teaspoons or about 104 grams of sugar is four times more than the recommended amount of 6 spoonfuls per day.

According to the survey, most Thais get their sugar from beverages such as soft drinks (9 teaspoons per serving), green tea (13 teaspoons), coffee (10 teaspoons), said Dr. Sutha Jiaramaneechotechai, deputy director of the Health Department.

Green tea and soft drinks is now eyed by the Department of Health for banning after considering their high levels of hidden sugar.

Overweight prevalence in South East Asia
Overweight prevalence in South East Asia

A food-centric culture combined with a fondness for sweetness

In addition, many Thai people love sweet tastes and add a considerable amount of sugar to many popular recipes.

As an example, a key factor in the successful introduction of pizza to the Thai populace was the addition of extra amounts of tomato sauce (which is high in sugar) than is used in pizza topping in western countries.

Promotion ads of green tea and soft drinks to face banning

Working together to prevent Obesity in children
Thailand is now second for adult overweight and obesity prevalence in Asian countries

Promotion of green tea and soft drinks is now eyed by the Department of Health for banning after considering their high levels of sugar that is harmful to health, particularly children and adults.

The deputy director-general of the Department of Health Dr Sutha Jienmaneechotchai stated that the Department was considering a proposal to control green tea and carbonated drinks which have high sugar content because it is detrimental to health.

He said the Consumer Protection Board and the Food and Drug Administration would be asked to regulate advertising promotions on soft drinks and green tea adverts because of the high sugar content was harmful to health.

Thais’ daily sugar consumption is over four times the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommended level.

Deputy director-general of the Department of Health Dr Sutha Jienmaneechotchai

The WHO guideline does not refer to the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, and sugars naturally present in milk, because there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming these sugars.

Sugar consumption per capita in Thailand reached an all time high of 35.5 kg in 2011, or about 15 times the lowest consumption in 1963

Historically, sugar consumption per capita in Thailand reached an all time high of 35.5 kg in 2011 and an all time low of 2.10 kg in 1963. When compared to Thailand’s main peers, sugar consumption per capita in Cambodia amounted to 16.8 kg, 4.30 kg in Laos, 38.8 kg in Malaysia and 0.300 kg in Myanmar in 2013.

Hidden sugars

Much of the sugars consumed today are “hidden” in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of free sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of free sugars.

Worldwide intake of free sugars varies by age, setting and country. In Europe, intake in adults ranges from about 7-8% of total energy intake in countries like Hungary and Norway, to 16-17% in countries like Spain and the United Kingdom. Intake is much higher among children, ranging from about 12% in countries like Denmark, Slovenia and Sweden, to nearly 25% in Portugal.

There are also rural/urban differences. In rural communities in South Africa intake is 7.5%, while in the urban population it is 10.3%.

Reducing sugars intake to less than 10% of total energy: a strong recommendation

The recommendations are based on analysis of the latest scientific evidence. This evidence shows, first, that adults who consume less sugars have lower body weight and, second, that increasing the amount of sugars in the diet is associated with a weight increase. In addition, research shows that children with the highest intakes of sugar-sweetened drinks are more likely to be overweight or obese than children with a low intake of sugar-sweetened drinks.

Thailand Overweight prevalence second in Southeast Asia

A recent study shows that Thais are tending to have more tendency to become obese, as the country now ranked second in ASEAN for the most people with obesity.

During the opening ceremony of the National Health Assembly 2013, the assembly’s organising committee President, Dr Sirina Pawarorarnwittaya revealed the speculated tendency of Thai people’s health for 2014 that more Thais would become obese due to the current eating habits.

She said data from 2009 showed that Bangkokians were most at risk of becoming obese most, while the northeastern region showed the least risk of contracting the disease.

 There is much healthy Thai food such as a sour relish with sliced papaya (Somtam) ; however, most Thais still love to eat very fat and oily food like Khao Ka Moo or fried banana (Kluai Thod), so it damages their health.

Mr. Yingsak Jraipinit, food researcher from Pilot Plant Development and Training Institute of King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (Bangkuntien) said that

Many younger Thais are rejecting certain aspects of traditional Thai life as being decidedly ‘un-cool’ and old-fashioned, choosing instead to embrace available aspects of western culture/lifestyle. The implications of this include changes to earlier patterns of diet and exercise.

According to the statistics of the Ministry of Public Health on March 6,2008, it shows that 1.4 million of 17.6 million Thai children are obese because they lack exercise, sitting and watching television or play computer game all day. Importantly, they love to eat too much snack, soft drinks and fastfood which can be prepared and served very quickly.

Bangkok Correspondent for Siam News Network. Editor at Thailand Business News



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