Health Ministry to launch 'war on sugar'

PUTRAJAYA: Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad will soon launch a "war on sugar" in an effort to stem the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCD) among Malaysians.

The effort, he said, will be done through the grading of beverages according to their sugar content, among others.

"Soon, the ministry will introduce a grading system for sweetened drinks based on the amount of sugar the drinks contain.

"This is similar to (what has been done by) our neighbours across the causeway, where the level of sugar in drinks is graded A,B,C, or D."

Dr Dzulkefly, however, did not specify a timeline for the implementation.

In Singapore, the mandatory nutrition label, called "Nutri-Grade", rates beverages according to their sugar content.

Grade A corresponds to the lowest sugar and saturated fat thresholds, while Grade D contains the highest thresholds.

Malaysia, on July 1, 2019, imposed a 40 sen excise duty per litre on sweetened beverages containing more than 5g of sugar or sugar-based sweetener per 100ml.

Dr Dzulkefly said these measures were necessary despite reports showing that there had been a decrease in non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, among Malaysians since 2019.

Based on the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2023 report, prevalence of diabetes had dropped by 2.7 per cent between 2019 to 2023, while hypertension dropped by 0.8 per cent and high cholesterol decreased by 4.8 per cent in the same time period.

Dr Dzulkefly, however, said data from NHMS 2023 showed that one in two Malaysians were obese and overweight.

"People who are overweight and obese are at risk of Type Two diabetes. They also are at higher risk of having cancer and fatty liver diseases.

"Therefore, the war on sugar is related to reducing the incidences of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases."

Earlier, Dr Dzulkefly launched the NHMS 2023 and the Global Adult Tobacco Survey Malaysia reports.

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