Beware the hidden sugar

A serving of tom yam soup (containing 6 teaspoons of added sugar) from a media education lunch by Colgate on the amount of added sugar in our foods on March 18, 2014.

Are you aware of exactly how much added sugar is in your food, even in the savoury dishes?

STOP and think for a moment – how many spoons of sugar have you added to your drinks or food today?

According to Lincoln University College Faculty of Dentistry dean Prof Dr Rahimah Abdul Kadir, studies have shown that Malaysians take an average of 26 spoons of added sugar every day.

Compare this to the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of only 10 spoons of sugar a day, and a recent study that further lowered that recommended intake to only one to six spoons of sugar a day.

And these 26 spoons do not even include the “hidden” sugars in our food!

Reporters were asked to guess how much hidden sugar was in their food during the media education lunch organised by Colgate in conjunction with their latest product launch. The total amount came up to 37.75 teaspoons of added sugar. – Photos by CHAN TAK KONG/The Star

In terms of oral hygiene, taking so much sugar is like throwing open the buffet line in our mouth for bacteria.

These bacteria react with the sugars in the food that we eat, producing acid, which then dissolves the hard tissue of our teeth, creating cavities.

Prof Rahimah, who is also an elected member of the Malaysian Dental Council and chairman of the Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future, says that there are more than 600 types of bacteria in our mouth.

“But there are two types of bacteria that dissolve teeth.

“Streptococcus (species) reacts with the first layer of teeth to strip it. Within five minutes, the pH decreases to around 5, making it acidic. It takes more than half-an-hour to go back up to the normal pH of 6.”

She adds: “The second bacteria, Lactobacillus (species), likes the acidic pH environment, which it tries to maintain as long as possible, leading to more tooth breakdown.”

Now, tooth decay or dental caries is a lifelong battle, as bacteria cannot be eradicated from the mouth and we obviously need to eat to survive.

“One way or the other, you will get caries,” says Prof Rahimah.

“What we want is to have smaller cavities at a later age. No one can avoid having some form of caries.”

Two ways to prevent caries are by drinking fluoridated water and using fluoridated toothpaste.

Another method is to decrease the amount of sugar we eat, which, Prof Rahimah points out, will also help to combat other health conditions like diabetes and obesity.

However, are we really aware of the amount of added sugars there is in our food, especially outside food?

Colgate organised a media lunch in conjunction with the launch of their new product – a toothpaste with a new Sugar Acid Neutraliser technology – in order to illustrate this point.

Bear in mind that these are just the added amounts of sugar to the dish, which does not include the natural sugars already contained within the components of the dish itself.


Tom yam soup: 6 teaspoons of added sugar


Mains (clockwise from bottom left):

• Kangkung belacan: 6.5 teaspoons of sugar

• Pandan chicken: 4 teaspoons of added sugar

• Kerabu mangga: 4.75 teaspoons of added sugar

• Sweet and sour fish: 6.5 teaspoons of added sugar

• Cucumber

• Sambal belacan: 1 teaspoons of added sugar

• White rice (centre)



Ice lemon tea: 5 teaspoons of added sugar



Sago gula melaka: 4 teaspoons of added sugar

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Beware the hidden sugar


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