Does bubble tea cause cancer?

August 31, 2023 | 03:00 pm PT
Many say tapioca pearls in bubble tea contain chemicals that can cause cancer. Is this true?(Linh, 27, Hanoi)


No research has found that bubble tea can cause cancer.

The belief that the beverage can cause cancer may have come from research in German which showed that tapioca pearls sold in a bubble tea shop contained styrene and acetophenone. The former is a chemical often used in production and can also be found in nature-originated foods.

Meanwhile, the latter is a compound chemical used to make food fragrance and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Some experiments on animals show that styrene can be a cause of cancers. However, it is not concluded whether the chemical exists in all kinds of bubble tea or only in those used in the research. The research itself has not been published or peer-reviewed, so its results have not been accepted.

No research has found that bubble tea can cause cancer. Illustration photo by Freepik

No research has found that bubble tea can cause cancer. Illustration photo by Freepik

Still, bubble tea contains a high amount of sugar, so you should have this drink at a limited amount. In general, a 475-ml cup of bubble tea contains around 300 calories and 38 grams of sugar. Sugar-contained beverages like bubble tea may cause negative harm to health, as they can cause obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and liver problems.

Research has shown the correlation between the consumption of sugar-contained beverages and the risks of breast, liver, prostate and ovarian cancers.

It is recommended to keep the amount of sugar intake below 10% of that of daily calorie intake. For example, an average adult consumes 2,000 calories a day, which means the energy from their sugar intake should not exceed 200 calories. Every gram of sugar provides the body with 4 calories. So it is recommended for an adult to take in no more than 50 grams of sugar a day.

A 475-ml cup of bubble tea contains 38 grams of sugar, so it accounts for 76% of the maximum amount of intake sugar a day.

If you are a fan of bubble tea, it is recommended to have this beverage with a reduced level of sugar, a smaller size, or without toppings.

Dr. Ta Tung Duy

Vietnam Institute of Applied Medicine

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