Introducing a sugar tax on fizzy drinks would help “save lives” and reduce type 2 diabetes rates, according to a report compiled by The World Health Organisation (WHO).
The document, Fiscal Policies for Diet and Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), found that raising prices by 20 per cent or more would result in lower consumption and “improved nutrition”.
Dr Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Department for the Prevention of NCDs, said: “Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes.
“If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives. They can also cut healthcare costs and increase revenues to invest in health services.”
Previously the global health body had advised a lower sugar intake, but stopped short of backing tax measures.
Earlier this year, the UK government announced the introduction of a sugar tax in 2018, and in the summer confirmed this meant a voluntary target for the food and drink industry to reduce sugar in products by 20 per cent. Manufacturers that adhere to these guidelines will escape a sugar tax.
Mexico and Hungary already tax added sugar products and South Africa will be introducing a levy next year.
The WHO said it wants to see lower consumption of “free sugars”, which it believes will lower obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay figures.
Dr Francesco Brancan, director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, said: “Nutritionally, people don’t need any sugar in their diet. WHO recommends that if people do consume free sugars, they keep their intake below 10 per cent of their total energy needs, and reduce it to less than five per cent for additional health benefits.”
More than one in three (39 per cent) adults across the world were overweight in 2014 and since 1980 obesity rates have more than doubled. Obesity is known to significantly increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
In 2015 it was thought there were 42 million children aged under five or over who were overweight, which is an increase of about 11 million during the past 15 years.

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