Planned sugar tax will lower obesity and improve childrens health, say scientists

Jack Woodfield
Fri, 16 Dec 2016
Planned sugar tax will lower obesity and improve childrens health, say scientists
The planned sugar tax in the UK will significantly improve the health of children and reduce the number of people who become obese, a study suggests.

A levy on sugary drinks is due to be introduced in April 2018 which will tax the soft drinks industry for products that contain over 5g of sugar per 100ml.

Scientists from the University of Oxford say this tax will greatly reduce the incidences of type 2 diabetes caused by obesity. In this new study, they looked to predict the effects of the levy by mapping a realistic better and worse case scenario for health.

Their study, published in the Lancet Public Health journal, modelled three possible reactions the soft drinks industry would have to the levy and what the likely impact would be on the health of the UK population.

These scenarios were reformulating drinks to lower sugar content, raising the price of sugary drinks and encouraging consumers to switch to lower sugar drinks.

The study's modelling revealed that a 30 per cent reduction in sugar content of all high-sugar drinks (more than 8g of sugar per 100ml) could lead to 144,000 fewer children and adults with obesity, 19,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes each year, and 269,000 fewer cases of tooth decay.

The theorised reaction of passing on the cost of the levy to consumers resulted in a 20 per cent increase in the price of high and mid-sugar (containing 5-8g of sugar per 100ml) drinks. The researchers predicted this would lead to 81,600 fewer obese adults and children, 10,800 cases of type 2 diabetes, and 149,000 cases of decaying teeth.

"The good news is that our study suggests that all of the most likely industry responses ... have the potential to improve health," said lead author Adam Briggs.

"The extent of the health benefits of the tax will depend on industry's response. We must therefore be vigilant to ensure the food industry acts to remove sugar from soft drinks, and that where the tax is passed on to consumers, it increases the price of targeted products only - drinks with high levels of sugar."

Co-author Susan Jebb believes the direction of the levy is clear, but stressed it will not be enough on its own to solve the growing rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the UK.

"This levy will have a positive impact, especially on children's health," she said. "But we need to consider how to take effective action to reduce other sources of sugar in children's diets, notably confectionery, which has so far been relatively overlooked."
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