Boba tea can lead to obesity, diabetes, health experts warn

Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Boba, milk tea loaded with sugar, health experts warn
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Health experts warn that boba and milk tea are loaded with sugar, raising the risk of obesity and diabetes.

LOS ANGELES -- A coalition of health and community organizers launched the Rethink Your Asian Drink campaign to help raise awareness about the unhealthy nutrition contents of boba tea.

For the past 15 years, the Asian drink boba tea, also known as bubble tea, has been extremely popular across the U.S.

"Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley, boba was very affordable. I had it every day," said Scott Chan, program manager at the Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance (APIOPA).

Health experts warned that boba can be just as unhealthy as soda. A 12-ounce serving of boba can contain about 90 grams of sugar, 7 grams of fat and 490 calories.

"You don't want that much sugar in your body every single day. It has a lot of different impacts on your health," Chan said.

The APIOPA launched the campaign in an attempt to warn people, especially the Asian community, about the need to be conscious about what you put into your body.

"1997 to 2011 here in L.A. County, there was a 68 percent increase in diabetes in our communities," Chan said.

Chef Nico de Leon from Lassa Restaurant in Chinatown created an alternative boba drink to mimic the traditional components.

"In my alternative drink we did a black tea, carrot juice for the color and also add some sweetness, some almond milk instead of the dairy in there so it's actually vegan, and then instead of boba we used chia seeds," de Leon said.

Longtime boba lovers approved of the alternative version.

"The carrot juice, it's very sweet. It's very light. It's refreshing so it's a great alternative, especially for a summer drink," boba drinker Whitney Chung said.

While health experts warn about boba, they said people can still enjoy the beverage with modifications.

"Ask for smaller options, less options. You know a lot of these places you can ask for half sugar, quarter sugar, no sugar," Chan said.