8 Reasons Why Malaysians May Need the Sugar Tax

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“Malaysians so fat one!”

We’ve all laughed about it at some point – but Malaysia is now the fattest nation in South-East Asia.

The Malaysian government has recently proposed a sugar tax to curb obesity. Initially planned for the questionable date of 1st of April this year, it’s since been pushed to the 1st July for Malaysians to better prepare for it.

If you’re wondering how you might be affected, drinks containing sugar or sugar-based sweeteners exceeding 5g per 100ml will be taxed RM0.40 per litre.

This also applies to fruit and vegetable juices with a sugar content of more than 12g per 100ml.

Sugar is almost synonymous with Malaysian culture. Our meals, snacks, and desserts are delectable but saturated with sugar.

Kek lapis, kacang cendol, apam balik, putu mayam, bubur cha cha… the list is endless.

Even many of our savoury dishes are infused with sugar – beef rendang is undoubtedly delicious but calorie-laden.

It’s undeniable: Malaysians are afflicted with an advanced case of sweet tooth.

It’s no surprise that the implementation of something as drastic as a sugar tax would provoke protests and outcries. How can like this one, so drastic!

It’s not guaranteed to work, but perhaps a sugar tax might help us rethink our sugar intake.

This is an unpopular opinion, but here are a few reasons why I think Malaysians might need a sugar tax:


Sugar Screws Up Sexytime

Did that get your attention?

If you’ve been having performance issues in the bedroom, sugar could be the reason.

“He said he just drank a soda. I knew our night was ruined.”

Low sex drive, decreased muscle tone, increased body fat – and even the development of dreaded man-boobs could all be attributed to too much sugar in your diet.

This is because sugar reduces testosterone in your body.

If you’re a woman, you’re not exempt from the negative effects of low testosterone levels either. Women need testosterone for good health.

A woman with imbalanced levels of testosterone will have reduced desire, increased body fat, lower muscle mass, and even fuzzy memory.

Too much sugar is definitely not sexy!


Sugar Makes You Fat (Duh!)

Did you know that sugar makes you hungrier and desire more food?

When you consume excessive amounts of sugar, your body becomes resistant to leptin, the hormone that tells your body to stop eating.

This means that bingeing on a plate of kuih-muih isn’t going to make you feel less hungry.

In fact, in an hour you’ll start looking around for another sugary snack, much like an addict looking for their next fix.

The statistics say it all – people who drink sugary beverages weigh more than people who don’t.

And it’s not just the visible overall fat. High sugar intake also causes you to accumulate visceral fat – the fat stored around your stomach. This is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.


Sugar Makes You Spotty

If you’re currently suffering from acne, you might want to rethink your sugar intake! Sugary foods quickly spike your blood sugar and insulin levels.

This causes increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, which can contribute to an especially pimply complexion.

A study showed that teenagers who frequently consumed added sugar had a 30% greater risk of developing acne.

Forget slathering on retinol or investing in an expensive set of SK-II skincare. You can improve your complexion at no cost – just by quitting sugar.


Sugar Causes Wrinkles

If it wasn’t bad enough that sugar causes acne, it also worsens wrinkles and speeds up skin aging!

Like a time machine for your body – only you can’t go back.

Scientists have discovered a thing called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). These are compounds formed by reactions between sugar and protein in your body.

AGEs are bad news for your skin – they damage collagen and elastin, the very stuff that keeps your skin stretchy and looking youthful.

In one utterly depressing study, women who consumed more sugars had a more wrinkled appearance than women on a high-protein, lower-carb diet.

Basically, eating less sugar might actually delay early-onset wrinkles.


Sugar Makes You Old on the Inside

It gets worse – sugar doesn’t just make you look older, it actually ages you on the inside too.

Sugar has been shown to speed up the deterioration of telomeres, which are structures found at the end of chromosomes. These are molecules which make up your genetic information.

Telomeres shorten as a normal consequence of ageing. Short telomeres cause cells to age and malfunction. While this happens naturally over time, sugar speeds up that deterioration!

Taking lots of sugar literally accelerates cellular ageing.

Don’t think that just a soft drink or two daily won’t affect you – a study proved that a daily 591ml serving of sugar-sweetened soda shockingly equated to 4.6 additional years of ageing!


Sugar Makes You Sleepy

Ever chugged down a Coke thinking it’ll give you more energy, but found yourself feeling lethargic an hour later?

Pictured: Most of us, after lunch.

This is because foods and drinks high in added sugar will quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing a brief energy boost.

It doesn’t last however – the boost is quickly followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar, also known as a sugar crash.

Having constant blood sugar swings can lead to major fluctuations in energy levels. Not only is it draining, but it may also dampen your overall productivity, and be psychologically harmful.


Sugar Is a Downer

By now, you might be feeling mildly depressed from reading about all the detrimental effects of sugar. Or perhaps you’re down in the dumps at the thought of having to give up sugar.

But get this – sugar can literally cause depression too!

As if making you fat and ageing your cells wasn’t enough – sugar can also be directly linked to depression.

Blood sugar swings, neurotransmitter dysregulation and inflammation caused by sugar can negatively affect mental health.

There are many studies on sugar and mental health, and there is overwhelming evidence that shows that sugar does in fact affect your mood.

If you’re suffering from depression and/or anxiety, a healthier diet can help with improving overall mental health. Why not substitute a sugary drink with a healthy portion of fruit instead?


Last but not least, high insulin levels also cause elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Why did I have to eat that third plate of Nasi Lemak…

This is related to many of the points above – elevated cortisol levels can affect you psychologically, and will also break down muscle mass, causing your body to store fat, and kill your sex drive.

It’s a vicious cycle – the physical effects of sugar, as well as the loss of a healthy sexual appetite, can cause even more stress, which spikes cortisol levels even higher.



Can something as simple as a sugar tax really be used to promote cultural evolution? And if it can, what’s the best way to measure its success?

In the UK, drinks manufacturers responded to the sugar tax by reformulating their beverages to be compliant with standards set by the sugar tax. Perhaps the same might happen in Malaysia.

We’ll just have to see how Malaysians respond to the sugar tax once it goes into effect, this coming July.

For more articles on the bad effects of sugar, read I Skipped Sugary Drinks for One Week, and Guess What Happened? and Getting Through the Day: What It’s like Living with Diabetes.

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Hi, I'm Irene, marketer-turned-freelance writer with a passion for shoes and stories. Acquiring good books and good boots is my lifetime obsession. When not writing for a living, I spend much of my time as a #crazyplantlady. Currently living in Bangkok with two pet rats (!!) and a long-suffering human.
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