According to an article from Thailand BusinessNews today, Thai people consume 26 teaspoons or 104 grams of sugar per day. This is 4 times the recommended amount, which is 6 spoonfuls per day. In fact, due to the high consumption of sugar, Thailand now is second place in overweight prevalence in Southeast Asia with Bangkokians being at most risk of becoming obese. According to Dr. Sirina Pawarorarnwittaya, President of the National Health committee, more Thais will become obese due to their current eating habits.
The cause of Thailand’s sugar addiction comes from the culture of loving the sweet taste and incoming Western lifestyles. Most of Thai sugar consumption comes from green tea (13 teaspoons of sugar) and soft drinks (9 teaspoons), which contain a dangerously high amount of sugar content. Moreover, many popular dishes in Thailand often add extra free sugar. Though, traditional Thai food such as sour relish with sliced papaya (Somtum) is considered healthy, but due to many younger Thais rejecting this traditional Thai cuisine and embracing the western diet and lifestyle, the Thai diet and exercise patterns have changed significantly over the years. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Public Health on March 6, 2008, 1.4 million of 17.6 million Thai children are obese because they lack exercise, sit and watch television or play computer games all day. Importantly, they love to eat a lot of snacks, soft drinks, and fast food.
In the past, there have been many campaigns that encourage exercise and healthy living from the Department of Health. But just recently, in addition to the recent “Flat-tummy Thais” campaign, the Department of Health is also considering banning promotional advertisements of green tea and soft drinks. This is may be the biggest challenge as the consumption of these product is considerably large but it seems like a necessary step as not only Thais consume extra added sugar, but much of sugar consumed today are also even hidden in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets, such as ketchup (containing 4 grams of sugar).
WHO is recommending to have people reduce sugar to less than 10% of total energy. The recommendation is based on the latest scientific evidence, showing that adults who consume less sugars have lower body weight and that increasing the amount of sugar in the diet is associated with a weight increase.