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Bubble Tea Craze: Exploring Solutions to ease Obesity Epidemic
Bubble tea, as known as boba milk tea or pearl milk tea, is a beverage typically
contains black- tea base and mixed with milk and chewy tapioca pearls. A cup of
customized boba can be added various ingredients, including fruit flavor, egg
puddling and jelly. It is invented in Taiwan in early 1980s (Lei et al., 2020) but
sparked a global fever among youngster insanely since 1990, especially in Asia
(Sangwai & Deshmukh, 2020). However, the excessive amount of caloric and sugar
content of boba beverages instigate public health concerns as it is exacerbating
obesity epidemic. In other word, not only do global bubble craze bring flourishing
economy in beverage industry, but also give rise to the international obesity epidemic.
To alleviate this situation, there are two recommended solutions for bobaholic to
reduce energy intake and increase energy expenditure respectively in order to
maintain healthy weight, while hand-shaken beverage shops are suggested to
implement polices to encourage customers intake less sugar and calories from each
serving of bubble tea.
The bubble tea mania among the globes is proved by several phenomenon. According
to a study, bubble tea market was valued $2.4 billion in 2019 and it is estimated to
approach $4.3 billion by 2027, disclosing a CAGR of 7.80% from 2020 to 2027
(Sangwai & Deshmukh, 2020). There were 62 different brands of bubble tea with 282
shops in operation in Hong Kong as of the of July 2018, according to the senior
director and head of retail services at Knight Frank consultancy (Li, 2018), such as
The Alley, Share Tea, TenRen, disclosed the fact that Hong Kong has already caught
up with this boba craze. Bubble tea mania has also blossomed in Japan in recent
years. In 2019, Japan imported 6,300 tons of tapioca pearls in the first three seasons,
already more than double the amount for the entire 2018 (Kurose, 2019). Innovative
Japanese even created plenty of new versions of bubble tea, involving bubble tea
salad, bubble tea ramen, alcoholic bubble tea and bubble tea hot dog, showing their
enthusiasm in bubble tea. Obviously, bubble tea is gaining popularity among the
world which is leading to an extensive obesity epidemic.
Bubble tea is liquid that are sweetened with various forms of added sugar, which will
result in increasing rate of obesity. Regarding US Dietary Guideline, it is defined as
sugar-sweetened beverage (Min et al., 2017). Min and colleagues’ (2016) research
implied that 16-ounce serving of bubble tea contribute 200-450 calories and 38 grams
of sugar, which is equal to 1 to 2 bowls of rice. For adolescent who drink bubble tea
daily, overconsumption of sugar and calories will cause higher rates of obesity and
link to numerous medical conditions, include, but no limited to, coronary artery
disease (Lu et al., 2013), gout (Aune et al., 2014), fatty liver disease, Type 2 diabetes,
asthma, cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol. Some of these health conditions
can even result in death in the worst cases (Min et al., 2017). Concerning these
associated diseases, critical public health implications will bring heavy burden to
social healthcare system and government health expenditure. It is a high time to tackle
with the global obesity epidemic accompany by boba craze before it is getting more
In the perspective of individual, solutions of obesity are all connected to energy
balance (Mitchell, 2011). For people in normal weight, their energy consumption
better not be more than energy expenditure for avoiding weight gain. For overweight
people, energy consumption is suggested to be lower than energy expenditure for
losing weight and returning to normal weight. For adolescent aged 11- 18, required
daily energy intake is 2200 – 3000 calories, depends on their gender and activity
level. In addition, The World Health Organization, suggests that free sugars should
make up no more than 10% of our daily energy intake (World Health Organization,
2015), meaning teenagers are advised to consume a maximum of 40 grams sugar for a
day. There are two suggested solutions for bobaholics in order to adjust energy intake
and expenditure respectively.
Firstly, health talk for primary and secondary school could be arranged. Students
could, therefore, understand fundamental nutrition and energy balance approach. The
brief understanding of energy balance encourage youth to reduce the frequency of
drinking bubble tea and intake less sugar. However, despite the fact that educating
teenagers to drink less boba can make permanent effect, its effectiveness is
questioned. Students greatly appreciate the joy and sweetness brought by bubble tea,
which help them release study pressure. Health is not their chief consideration
comparing to this huge temptation. As a result, educational talk might not be the best
solution owing to its low effectiveness.
Hence, encouraging students to be physically active. Building more sports teams and
acquiring more sports equipment in school can modify the environment to make it
easy for student to participate in various sports or exercise. Several reports found that
people who came across a variety of recreation facilities are more physically active
overall (James, 2009). Since higher physical activity level will increase the energy
expenditure, this behavior could adjust energy balance and maintain healthy weight.
Indeed, in the view of school, an extra expenditure is needed to run sport teams and
buy equipment, so it is possibly unaffordable for certain schools. Hong Kong
government and sport organizations are able to provide financial and technical
support so as to lessen the financial burden of local school. In fact, various
government departments and organizations realized the importance of physical
activity and have been committed to promoting sports activities in schools. “School
Sports Programme” and “School Sports Promotion Coordinators” since 2001 and
2012 respectively were conducted to encourage regular exercise of students and
increase the number of activities for building an active and healthy lifestyle (Home
Fairs Bureau, 2019). It is expected that the Hong Kong government is going to carry
out more approaches to further promote physical activity among public so as to tackle
with the obesity issue.
Lastly, apart from focusing on individuals, policies for hand-shaken beverage shop is
another practical solution. It is advised to limit the amount of added ingredients and
offer discount when customers request less sugar for encouraging teens to have a little
healthier beverage with less sugar and calories. Even though only a tiny amount of
sugar and calories is excluded in each serving, this small change can make a huge
different for youngster who cannot help drinking bubble tea daily, preventing
excessive energy intake. Hand-shaken beverage shores and industry, however, is
likely to oppose as these policies might affect the favor of designed hand-shaken
beverage and bring negative impact to their profit. If the policies are aspired to
implement successfully, government play a big role to subsidize the industry and
carry out the policies.
In conclusion, bubble tea brings both sweetness and illness to teenagers. While the
rise of obesity accompanied by the boba craze, obesity epidemics require effective
and efficient solutions before serious public health implications is caused. Health talk,
encouragement of participating in physical activity and hand-shaken beverage policies
are all possible or even applied solutions. It is optimistic that collaborative efforts of
government, educators and sports organizations will lower the rate of obesity in the
foreseeing future.
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