Study detects UK sugar tax could save thousands from obesity, diabetes

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A schemed levy on sugary drinks due to be introduced in Britain in April 2018 could significantly reduce the number of people who become obese and develop diabetes and tooth decay, scientists said on Thursday.

In a study on the levy’s health impacts, researchers find the positive impact would be greatest if the drinks industry reacts by reformulating products to cut sugar content, rather than keep the same formulations but raise costs to consumers.

The schemed levy is tiered, starting from no taxation on diet and low sugar drinks, a low taxation on mid-sugar drinks containing 5 to 8 grams( g) of sugar per 100 millilitres( ml ), and a high taxation on very sugary drinks containing 8g or more per 100 ml.

The government’s health department says sugary drinks are the single biggest source of sugar for children, who can have more than their recommended daily uptake simply by drinking a can of cola, which has nine teaspoons of sugar.

The scientists analyzed three possible reactions by companies to the levy. They could reformulate drinks to reduce sugar content, pass some of the levy to consumers by creating the price of sugary drinks, or use marketing to foster consumers to switch to lower sugar drinks.

The Lancet Public Health journal published the results.

For each scenario, the researchers mapped a realistic better and worse suit scenario for health by estimating the likely impact on rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

” The good news is that our study suggests that all of the most likely industry replies … have the potential to improve health ,” told Adam Briggs of Oxford University, who led the study.” The magnitude of the health benefits of the tax will depend on industry’s response .”

In opting for a sugar taxation, Britain joins Belgium, France, Hungary and Mexico, all of which have imposed some sort of taxation on drinks with added sugar. Scandinavian countries have levied similar taxes for many years.

According to the study’s modeling, a 30 percent reduction in sugar content of all high-sugar drinks and a 15 percent reduction in mid-sugar drinks could result in 14,400 fewer adults and children with obesity, 19,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes a year, and 26,900 fewer decay teeth annually.

Passing on half of the cost of the levy to consumers with a price rise for high and mid-sugar drinks of up to 20 percent could reduce the number of adults and children with obesity by 81,600, result in 10,800 fewer diabetes cases and 14,900 fewer decay teeth a year.

Speaking to reporters at a briefing in London, Briggs and his team said the most likely real-life replies from industry would probably involve a combination of the scenarios in the study, which might entail the benefits could increase.

” The direction of the effect is clear ,” told Susan Jebb, an Oxford professor who co-led the research.” This levy will have a positive impact, especially on children’s health .”

Source: Reuters

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