The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) said that frequent consumption of sugary drinks can lead to weight gain and a variety of health problems and advised people to drink tap water instead.
Referring to the result of a Ministry of Health and Welfare study conducted last year and recently released titled “Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan,” the agency said researchers determined that a typical serving of a glass of green tea with yakult — a popular drink item in tea beverage stores — contained the equivalent of 14 cubes of sugar — almost triple the daily intake recommended by the WHO in March.
According to that WHO recommendation, “free sugars” should not constitute more than 10 percent of the total caloric intake of an adult, and ideally should be no higher than 5 percent.
Free sugars are the monosaccharides and disaccharides that are added to some foods and beverages by manufacturers, but they also occur naturally in products such as honey and fruit juices, HPA official Chen Miao-hsin (陳妙心) said.
Bubble milk tea was the most caloric beverage of those tested in the survey, with 653 calories and an average of 616.5 grams of sugar per serving.
The report found that 89 percent and 85 percent of junior and senior high-school students respectively drink at least one sugary drink per week.
The survey found that the average weekly intake of sugary drinks was six servings for a junior-high student, eight for a senior-high student and seven for an adult.
Chen said that an adult weighing 60kg, who does light physical work only needs 1,800 calories per day, no more than 5 percent of which should be “free” sugars.
The recommended daily intake of free sugars is 90 calories, which is equivalent to four to five sugar cubes, Chen said, adding that one cup of green tea with yakult contains three times that amount.
Sugary drinks do not assuage thirst, but the high levels of calories and free sugars can lead to obesity, metabolic disorders, dental decay and a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, she said.
A person who drinks one serving of bubble milk tea per day for two months — for example, a high-school student on their summer break — might gain up to 5.1kg, HPA officials said.
Sugary teas are not the only unhealthy beverages popular in Taiwan: A bottle of Yakult contains the equivalent of about 11 cubes of sugar, orange juice about 10 cubes, and sports drinks about eight, Chen said.
For drinks such as these, a person would need to jog for between 20 and 40 minutes to burn off the calories ingested, Chen said.
The ministry had ordered vendors to begin labeling the sugar content of beverages no later than last month. In new guidelines announced by the HPA, consumers are recommended to read the content labels carefully, keep track of their sugar and caloric intake, replace flavored milk with low-fat alternatives, drink water instead of sweetened beverages and avoid free sugars.
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