20% Sugary Drink Tax Could Reduce Obesity Numbers by 180,000

Monday, November 4, 2013 - 12:30

The number of obese adults in the UK could be reduced by 180,000 with a 20% tax on sugary drinks, say researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of Reading. The tax could raise over £275 million for the Treasury.

The researchers from the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at the University of Oxford and the Centre for Food Security at the University of Reading have published their findings in the British Medical Journal.

A tax on sugary drinks has been proposed as a public health measure for a number of reasons. Sugary drinks (soft drinks with added sugar such as fizzy drinks, squashes and cordials) have been shown to increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and tooth decay. They only suppress appetite weakly, so consuming fewer sugary drinks is unlikely to result in an increased intake of other sources of calories. There are no beneficial nutrients in sugary drinks, so reducing consumption will not remove important nutrients from the diet. And from a legislative perspective, sugary drinks can be clearly defined, the researchers say.

The scientists used a large survey of shopping preferences of families in the UK to estimate how purchases of sugary drinks would change in response to a 20% increase in their price.

They also looked at how purchases of other drinks, such as orange juice, milk and diet drinks, might change in response to the price change. They then used this information to estimate the change in average calorie intake and obesity

The research suggests that purchases of sugary drinks would reduce by around 15% with people mainly switching to diet drinks and tea and coffee. The expected reduction in energy intake is 28 calories per person per week.

The researchers estimate this would reduce the number of obese adults across the population by 180,000 (with the number likely to be in a range from 110,000 to 250,000), or 1.3% of all obese adults in the UK.


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