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Opinion: The role of sugar in Thailand’s worsening obesity epidemic

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PHUKET: One of the biggest changes to Phuket’s rapidly urbanizing roadside landscape over the years has been the proliferation of shops selling liquid confections such as chaa manao (lime tea) and a wide range of other colorful drinks, all laced with as many as 25 tablespoons of pure sugar.

It would be interesting to do a statistical analysis on this proliferation, especially as it relates to Thailand’s worsening obesity epidemic, already among the worst in Southeast Asia.

An estimated 32% of the Thai population is now overweight, and the trend seems to be on the rise as our children are lured into lives of sugar addiction from many sides, from advertising that makes it seem ‘cool’ to be chubby as well as parents who think they are rewarding their kids when they give them junk food polluted with sugar, salt and chemical preservatives.

Obviously the obesity problem is a global epidemic and the proliferation of cha manao shops here in Phuket is just one manifestation of the factory-food hydra that started in the corn fields of the American midwest a century ago, and continues to spread like The Blob across the globe. Even in remote parts of Thailand you will still find roadside vendors selling roti sai mai (cotton candy) for passing motorists who need a quick fix.

The result has been a huge increase in chronic and sometimes fatal medical conditions, especially type 2 diabetes.

Even if all this sugar does not kill us, it can certainly make our lives miserable. In addition to porking up the people, making them weak and unattractive, sugar also causes tooth decay – a fact that has been known for decades.

And how many Thais are even aware of the link between sugar intake and acne vulgaris, which is leaving so many of our youngsters needlessly scarred for life?

Fortunately, sugar addiction and obesity are not terribly difficult to overcome for those willing to make some basic lifestyle changes. The path is simple for those who follow the NSNG (no sugar, no grains) lifestyle advocated by American celebrity fitness trainer Vinnie Tortorich.

Under this lifestyle, you need to stop eating both sugar and grains, including bread and rice. Passing up rice in favor of fresh vegetables may make you seem like a bit of a heretic in rice-o-centric Thailand, but the results are worth it.

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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