Improvement Needed For Inquiry Into Thailand’s Sugar Consumption

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018 | 966 Views

A joint study conducted by researchers at Thailand’s Mahidol University and Singapore’s International Life Sciences Institute Southeast Asia Region has found that the current evidence of sugar consumption level and sources with added sugar was unsubstantial.

While traditional Southeast Asian diets consist of mainly (around 70 to 80 percent) carbohydrates—predominantly tubers and cereals like rice, the country’s development and urbanisation have effectively resulted in a nutritional transition to industrialised diets. Such diets often include western processed foods and traditional foods higher in sugars and fat contents.

The researchers collected a total of 24 references— eight are nationally representative with 16 other individual studies. These include food balance sheets, household expenditure surveys and government reports—both published and unpublished. Among which, the researchers observed incongruence in results.

The 2009 Food Consumption Survey of Thai Population illustrated a median sugar and sweetener intake for all age groups was 2 to 20 g for males and 2 to 15.7 g for females respectively—both falling below the Thai recommendation of 40 g to 55 g per day. In 2010, the National Statistical Office reported that the available supply of sugar per capita per day was 83 g.

Generally, the term “sugars” refers to mono- and disaccharides, with glucose and fructose being the most common dietary monosaccharides and sucrose or table sugars (50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose) being the most common disaccharide.

The World Health Organisation instead uses the term “free sugars” to mean all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to food products by manufacturers and consumers, as well as naturally-occurring sugars present in foods from honey to juice concentrates.

However, the term “added sugar” is used by the American Heart Association in referring to sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparations, as well as that added at the table. Both “free” and “added” sugars were considered in this study.

Commonly consumed sources of sugars were table sugar, sweetened beverages, and sweet snacks like traditional desserts, confectionery and crispy snacks.

Due to the use of a food frequency questionnaire, which relied on a single 24-hour recall to gauge participants’ sugar intake, the information gathered was largely limited. This is on top of the fact that many of the collated studies were outdated and had small sample sizes, adding to the limitations and inconsistencies in the review’s results.

Concluding the review, it was recommended that an updated nationally representative survey comprising the diverse demographics among the Thai population be conducted regarding sugar consumption and sugar sources.

Researchers also suggested the use of biomarkers in order to establish sugar level consumption, as well as multiple 24-hour—at least two—to identify food sources that can significantly increase sugar intakes.