Face Off: Do Hong Kong students eat too much sugar?

Face Off: Do Hong Kong students eat too much sugar?

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week...

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Do Hong Kong students eat too much sugar?
Photo: May Tse/SCMP

Heather Ng, 17, YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College

In a 2015 study, the Consumer Council and the Centre for Food Safety tested more than 100 samples of non-packaged drinks served in Chinese restaurants, and found that 30 per cent of them had more than 7.5 grams of sugar per 100ml. Popular packed goods also contain a lot of sugar – for instance, a regular can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar, and popular breakfast cereal Frosted Flakes up to 35 grams of sugar per 100g.

Studies have shown that children are consuming far more sugar than recommended, as a result of popular brands fighting to appeal to their taste buds.

Children’s unhealthy eating habits stem from their ignorance of a balanced diet, and it is up to their parents to monitor their food intake and educate them. Children are much less likely to keep track of their calories and total sugar intake than adults and are only concerned with what tastes good. Brands prey on their ignorance and constantly line supermarket shelves with
sugar-loaded goods to appeal to children.

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A high sugar intake often results in tooth decay. The University of Hong Kong Faculty of Dentistry conducted a study on 12-year-old primary school children’s dental health in 2014 and found alarming results. Seventy-five per cent of the 600 students showed signs of early tooth erosion, proving that tooth decay and sugar consumption are closely linked.

Too much sugar leads to a host of other health complications, including obesity, nutrient deficiency, and eating disorders . In 2012, the Health Department reported that one in five children in Hong Kong are overweight. A study in the US found that obese children tend to carry excess fat into adulthood. This may explain the alarming rate of obesity among local adults; a 2017 study by Pacific Prime HK found that an incredible 50 per cent of Hongkongers are obese.

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Measures have to be taken to stop this problem from spiralling out of control. The Hong Kong government could join the 26 countries that have imposed a tax on sugar in hopes of changing consumer behaviour.

In my opinion, adverts promoting sugary goods should be limited, or even banned. The government and schools should work together to create campaigns to promote healthy eating habits to students, and parents should make more of an effort to monitor their children’s eating habits from a young age.

Although there are some campaigns in place, more needs to be done.

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Christy Kwok, 17, Sha Tin College

While sugar can be found in many foods we consume on a daily basis – from biscuits, to candies, to sugary drinks – I don’t think this means that Hong Kong students are eating too much sugar.

Firstly, a lot of students are becoming much more health-conscious. Young people eat healthy foods to stay fit and maintain a healthy body image, so they steer away from sweet, sugary foods.

What’s more, there are a lot of internet and social trends that promote healthy eating, and trendy health foods, such as kale chips, have become extremely popular. Some students actually feel pressured to follow the latest healthy food trends to fit in with their classmates, while others are truly conscious of their own health and look to include nutritious, low-sugar foods in their diet.

In addition, schools have been doing a good job of educating students on the importance of a healthy diet. This means that students know which foods are healthy, and which ones aren’t.

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Apart from diet being commonly discussed in subjects such as biology, schools often organise talks by visiting nurses and dietitians. There are also plenty of resources available in school libraries that remind students of the negative consequences high sugar levels can have on one’s body.

School boards, too, closely monitor the sugar content of the food that catering services provide to students. Healthy snacks and nutritious meals are now very common in menus at school cafeterias, and many schools have replaced sugary drinks with low-sugar alternatives, such as Coke Zero or Aquarius Zero.

In conclusion, while it is inevitable that students will consume foods and drinks with sugar in it, they are aware of their sugar intake and capable of controlling what they eat and drink. Young people also have a higher metabolism rate than adults, which means they can get away with consuming more sugar as long as they exercise or play sports. That being said, most students don’t eat excessive amounts of sugar, which is why I disagree with the notion that Hong Kong students eat too much of it.

Edited by Ben Young

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Do Hong Kong students eat too much sugar?

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