Can You Really Fall Into a Coma From Too Much Milk Tea?

Viral reports say this happened to a teenager in China after she drank two cups of bubble tea a day. ​
boba, bubble tea, milk tea, coma, diabetes, sugar
For illustrative purposes only. Photo: Rosalind Chang/Unsplash

Viral this week are reports of an 18-year-old in China who fell into a coma, after drinking what turned out to be too much bubble tea.

She was reportedly unconscious in a Shanghai hospital for five days and underwent a series of resuscitation efforts that included endotracheal tube mechanical ventilation. Doctors said that she had experienced shock and kidney failure among other health problems, The Paper reported.


According to her mother, the 18-year-old loved drinking bubble tea and hated exercising. In the month leading up to her harrowing hospital visit, she had been drinking two cups of bubble tea daily. One week before she slipped into a coma, she experienced symptoms like a dry mouth and nausea.

She underwent a month-long recuperation process at the hospital, which saw her dropping 35 kilos. She has since vowed never to drink bubble tea again, The Paper reported.

So can drinking too much bubble tea really lead to a coma?

While drinking large amounts of the sugary drink could have been a factor, Dr. Paul Ang Teng Soon, a family physician at Zenith Medical Clinic in Singapore, said that it’s not necessarily only because of the milk tea. He said that the woman most likely had undiagnosed diabetes and that the high sugar content of the drinks could have “tipped her over” into a diabetic coma.

Dr. Ang said that when the body’s blood sugar levels become too high, it goes into a state of starvation. The body becomes “deprived of water,” which could cause the brain to shut down and the person to pass out. This is known as diabetic ketoacidosis.

A medium-sized cup of bubble milk tea usually contains about 8 teaspoons of sugar, while a brown sugar milk tea with pearls, that is all the rage right now, has a whopping 18.5 teaspoons of sugar. The World Health Organization recommends only 6 teaspoons of sugar a day.


So, what can milk tea lovers do?

Some people think that limiting sugar on some days and then going all out on others will do the trick but Dr. Ang said that this is a "misconception."

Having a fluctuating blood sugar level is “actually more stressful on the pancreas,” he explained. The pancreas is the organ that regulates blood sugar.

While Dr. Ang did not give specific recommendations on how much bubble tea is safe to drink, he pointed out that a cup of bubble tea basically has the same amount of calories as one meal.

For those who just want to satisfy their bubble tea craving, Dr. Ang suggested splitting an order with other people. He also recommended ordering drinks with a sugar level of 25 percent or below, and opting for sugar alternatives when possible.