How Much Sugar Are You Consuming Unknowingly?


Did you know that Malaysians were rated as the 8th largest sugar consumers in the world?? Well, of course this is no big surprise because we are very well known for having a huge sweet tooth and the indestructible love we have for our teh tarik to cendol. We are said to be consuming 26 teaspoons of sugar on an average each day which is more than double of World Health Organization’s recommendation of 12 teaspoons a day. Hmm.. but isn’t it hard to believe that we are actually taking in that much of sugar in a day?

That’s purely because we focus on the “visible” sugar but there are whole lot of hidden sugars that we consume on daily basis secretly dumping glucose into our body. One of the major culprits is the sugary drink, which can have up to 10 teaspoons of sugar in a single serving. With the increasing consumption of sweetened beverages not just in Malaysia but worldwide, it is quite alarming to think of the delirious health effect the practice can impinge on population.


What is a sugary drink?

Sugary drinks/sweetened beverages are non-alcoholic beverages with added sugar in them, which includes soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit punch, sports drinks, sweetened powder drinks and cordial. There are divided opinions on sugar content in some pediatric nutrition drinks with some suggesting that the sugar content is too high to be consumed by young children. These sugary drinks have high calorie content and contribute largely to obesity and many other serious health conditions.

Ever wondered how much sugar you consume from all the Teh Tariks and Nescafe panas (hot malaysian coffee) ?


How popular are these drinks?

What is worrisome is the popularity of sugary drinks among younger generation in the past decade or so. The acceptance of frequent consumption of these drinks as a norm is equally bothersome. Studies over a  period of two decades from 1989 suggests that the sugary drink consumption increased by 60 % among children aged 6-11. The percentage of children drinking them took a leap of 12% from 79%.  According to Harvard School of Public Health, on any given day, half the population of USA consumes sugary drinks with 25% of people consuming at least 200 calories from these drinks.

These numbers and statistics are worrying given that the fact that sugar is linked to more than 60 diseases including serious ailments such as cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis.


Does consumption of sugary drink contribute to weight gain?

Increasing intake of sugary content in diet contributes to higher calorie input. For example, a cup of teh tarik from your favourite mamak shop can have about 5-6 teaspoons of sugar and imagine drinking 2 cups everyday without cutting down on calories you are taking from other sources. Added with sedentary lifestyle we are fostering widely, such excessive calorie intake will lead to overweight and then to obesity.

Over the years, there are a lot of studies done to prove the correlation between sugary drink consumption and weight gain. An outcome of a study involving 120000 people (includes both men and women) finds out that increasing sweetened beverage by about 340 gram serving a day gained an extra pound every four years on average than those who did not. In another study involving 33097 people with genetic predisposition to be obese, only those who drink sweetened beverages had higher risk of becoming obese. This is an important discovery to show that even if someone has genetic correlation with obesity, living a healthy life such as cutting down on sugar can reduce the risk of overweight or obesity. Curbing obesity in return can reduce risk of diabetes and this is very relevant in Malaysia given the frightening hike in both diabetes and obesity in the country.


Why drinking sugary beverages seem to add more calories than solid food?

  • Fluid does not provide satiety/feeling of fullness and this leads to more calorie intake even after consuming a high-calorie sweet drink

  • Sweet drinks might stimulate appetite to consume more sweet or high carbohydrate foods

  • The preconception that beverages do not contain as much calorie as solid food does when in actual case it could be the opposite


In the past decade, sweetened beverages have become a compulsory item on shopping list of most of the, if not all, households,. However, with the hike in consumption of sugary drinks and the deleterious health effects associated to it, we have to take responsibility on our diet and make healthy choices. Practice moderation and be smart when you are choosing on what to sip to quench your thirst. Like the oldies say, measure twice, cut once.



Rethink Sugary Drink




Thanusha Ganesan

by Thanusha Ganesan

Final year pharmacy student. Highly curious and immensely enthusiastic. I strongly believe that to be happy is to indulge in the spirit of giving. View all articles by Thanusha Ganesan.


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