Sweet-toothed bubble tea lovers, look away now: the sugary drink has grown so popular in Singapore that a hospital in the island city state is urging consumers to modify their orders to make them healthier.
In the article, the hospital warned Singaporeans against the sugar content of bubble tea – a drink that has become “ubiquitous” and “wildly popular” there in recent years.
It acknowledged that green and black tea were indeed helpful in reducing the risk of diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and cancer, but warned that bubble tea (which contains sugar, milk and non-dairy creamer) could actually increase the risk of chronic diseases.
Non-dairy creamer is a milk substitute that contains trans fat in the form of hydrogenated palm oil. This oil has been strongly correlated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, the hospital said.
It added that the number of calories in a medium-sized cup of bubble tea were equivalent to a slice of cheesecake and advised consumers to limit their intake to two cups a week.
The worst choice?
The hospital compared the sugar level in seven types of bubble tea orders, and found that the unhealthiest option by far was brown sugar milk tea with pearls.
This drink contained 18.5 teaspoons of sugar.
The second most unhealthy option was winter melon tea, at 16 teaspoons of sugar.
The daily recommended sugar intake for children and teenagers is 5 teaspoons, while it is 8 to 11 teaspoons for adults.
And while fruit-based drinks might seem healthy, they were in fact worse choices: passion fruit green tea (8.5 teaspoons) and jasmine green tea with fruit toppings (8.5 teaspoons) outranked milk tea with pearls (8 teaspoons) in sugar content.
Foam toppings have even more calories than pearls
Apart from the drinks themselves, the hospital also compared the calorie content of various toppings.
The toppings with the highest calories were milk foam (203 calories) and cheese foam (180 calories), beating out the classic option of black tapioca pearls (156 calories).
The lowest-calorie topping in the list was aloe vera, at 31 calories.
The hospital warned that toppings such as jellies and pearls were kept in a sweet syrup to keep them moist, which added to the drink’s sugar and calorie count.
It added that new trends such as honey pearls or brown sugar syrup increased the drink’s sugar content even more.
5 tips ordering healthier bubble tea
The hospital offered these suggestions for enjoying the drink with less risk to your health.
- Choose a smaller cup size
- Pick “plain” green tea, oolong tea or black tea
- Ask for 30 per cent sugar levels or less
- Ask for fresh, low-fat or skimmed milk instead of non-dairy creamer
- Avoid toppings, or pick lower-calorie options such as aloe vera and white pearls
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.