Added Sugar Doesn’t Sweeten Your Health!


Recommendations to limit sugar intake is not something new to us. 2013 World Health Statistics Report showed that in 2008, Malaysia had the highest obesity prevalence for adults aged > 20 years among Southeast Asian countries (10.4% among males, 17.9% among females). This rising problem is found to be closely linked to our diet and lifestyle, in which excessive sugars and sweeteners consumption being one of the key contributing factors. Increased intake of foods high in sugar can also contribute to dental caries, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other diet-related health conditions.

According to American Heart Association (AHA), added sugar refers to sugars and syrup added to foods during processing or preparation and those added at the table. They are commonly found in processed foods, sugary beverages, sugary cereal and bakery products, flavoured yogurts, candy and other confectionery items. Do watch out for other names of added sugars on food labels such as anhydrous dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, liquid fructose, crystal dextrose, confectioner’s powdered sugar, nectars, honey, brown sugar, molasses, corn syrup solids, invert sugar, evaporated corn sweetener and cane juice. Added sugars sweeten a food but they provide virtually no nutrition except calories!

A study done in 2016 showed that the major sources of added sugar in the Malaysian diet are cordial syrup, condensed milk, Kopi, Teh Tarik, local kuihs, jam, ABC ice, carbonated drinks and chocolate-flavoured drinks. Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2013 recommends to consume foods and beverages low in sugar. Meanwhile, World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that free sugar intake should not exceed 10% of the total energy, i.e. not more than 50g per day. But do you know how much is 50g? Check it out from the infographic below!

added sugarSo how can we reduce sugar intake before it starts to cause health troubles? Here’s how!

  1. Read food labels from now! Scan for added sugar and sweeteners in the ingredient list and rethink your choices in your shopping cart. Replace with healthier options like fresh fruits and vegetables. For instance, instead of 3-in-1 oat drinks, choose plain oats and add mashed banana to your oatmeal in the morning for natural sweetness!

  2. Instead of sugary beverages, opt for water, unsweetened tea, milk or sparkling water. You can also make your own fruit-infused water at home!

  3. Drop the usual habit of reaching for the typical kuih manis at tea time. Instead, opt for healthier choices like popiah basah, kuih apam, fresh fruits, plain yogurt or wholegrain crackers!


  1. American Heart Association Added Sugars Consumption Recommendations

  2. Ministry of Health, Malaysia. Malaysian dietary guidelines. 2013/11/27 

  3. Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. Geneva:WHO; 2015.

  4. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; 2016

  5. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016

Ang Hui Inn

by Ang Hui Inn

Clinical Dietitian B.Sc (Hons) Nutrition and Dietetics, IMU Member of Malaysian Dietitians’ Association (MDA) Hui Inn received her credential in nutrition & dietetics from International Medical University (IMU), Kuala Lumpur. She is currently working in a hospital as a clinical dietitian. Her goal as a dietitian is to inspire, motivate and empower others on sustainable living through healthy diet and lifestyle. View all articles by Ang Hui Inn.


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