Bubble tea: To drink or not to drink?

|     Hakim Hayat     |

YOU might want to watch your sugar intake the next time you sip on that cold and irresistible bubble tea on a hot day, as new research from a Singapore private hospital has shown that the unhealthy levels of sugar in bubble teas may cause adverse health effects.

The study, released last week by Mount Alverina Hospital, also pointed out that the latest craze among bubble tea lovers now, brown sugar milk tea, said to be “healthier” than the normal white sugar drinks, actually contain the most lethal amount of sugar – 18.5 teaspoons for a 500ml drink – which is more than double the recommended daily sugar intake for adults.

The hospital conducted the research amid the rise in popularity of bubble tea drinks in Singapore and the growth in the variety of the drinks in recent years.

“With the basic brew consisting of tea, milk, creamer, sugar and tapioca pearls… what is its nutritional value and how much of it should we be drinking?” a section from the research said.

Brunei is no exception. Locals love their bubble teas so much and this is reflected in the mushrooming numbers of bubble tea shops across the country over the years, carrying different franchise brands. It has almost become a staple here to get bubble teas for dessert after lunch or dinner.

Research shows unhealthy levels of sugar in bubble teas may cause adverse health effects. – THE WASHINGTON POST

Tea might be good for you – drinking green tea and black tea has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and even cancer. This is due to their polyphenols which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

However, when ingredients like non-dairy creamers and toppings are added in, the increase in fat and sugar content instead increases the risk of chronic diseases.

“For instance, non-dairy creamer contains trans fat in the form of hydrogenated palm oil which has been strongly correlated with increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke,” said the publication.

The hospital also warned that toppings like jellies and pearls are kept in a sweet syrup to keep them moist, adding to the drink’s sugar and calorie content.

A medium-sized 500ml bubble milk tea with pearls and the full amount of sugar has eight teaspoons of sugar and 335 calories, while the larger 700ml drinks have 11 teaspoons of sugar and 469 calories each. The growing popularity of newer bubble tea varieties such as honey pearls or brown sugar syrup means that adults would now be exceeding their recommended intake of eight-11 teaspoons of sugar per day for – all in a single drink. By comparison, a can of regular Cola has seven teaspoons of sugar.

Children and teenagers should be having even less bubble tea, as the recommended sugar intake for them is less than five teaspoons daily.

Ultimately, bubble tea is still considered a sugar-sweetened beverage – placing it among the likes of soft drinks, energy drinks and 3-in-1 instant coffees and teas.

The publication however said that its findings does not mean that people should give up their favourite bubble teas altogether, but advised them to reduce the frequency of consumption and opt for healthier choices, which are available at most bubble tea establishments.

These include plain green tea or black tea and also drinks that allow for the option of reduced sugar. Consumers can also select healthier toppings such as aloe vera.

The calories in one medium cup of bubble tea rival that of a slice of cheesecake, so limiting your intake is important if you are watching your weight.