How effective is a sugar tax and health warnings for reducing obesity in America?

An image to illustrate the sugar tax
© iStock/ carlosalvarez

Research presented at Nutrition 2019 assesses how effectively policies such as a sugar tax and health warnings for sugary drinks could reduce obesity.

Sugary drinks as a major contributor to obesity

According to the American Society for Nutrition, sugar-sweetened beverages are one of the largest sources of added sugar in the American diet.

Sugar-sweetened beverages include:

  • Non-diet sodas;
  • Flavoured juice drinks;
  • Sports drinks;
  • Sweetened tea and coffee drinks;
  • Energy drinks; and
  • Electrolyte replacement drinks.

Sugar tax

One of the research studies which will be presented is from Yujin Lee of Tufts University. According to the American Society for Nutrition, this research used a simulation model and found that:

  • “Either a tiered or sugar-content taxed structure that placed a higher tax on beverages containing more sugar produced more health gains and cost savings than a tax based on SSB volume”;
  • “Over 10 years, a tiered tax on SSBs could prevent 460,000 cardiovascular events and 60,000 cases of diabetes and save 28 billion dollars in health care costs”;
  • “A sugar content tax on SSBs could prevent 370,000 cardiovascular events”;
  • “50,000 cases of diabetes and save 21 billion dollars in health care costs”; and
  • “A volume tax on SSBs would prevent 240,000 cardiovascular events and 30,000 cases of diabetes and save 14 billion dollars in health care costs.”

Health warnings

For study participants assigned to be exposed to health warnings, all SSBs in the trial store displayed this health warning on the front of the container. The image is the actual size (1.5″ x 1.5″).
© Anna Grummon, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Anna Grummon from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill will present research on health warnings. The American Society for Nutrition add: “According to a study involving 400 adults, health warnings on SSBs can discourage the purchase of these drinks. Adults who typically drink sugary beverages were given $10 to spend at a life-size convenience store replica selling SSBs and other products. Study participants randomly assigned to a group in which SSBs in the store displayed health warnings purchased fewer calories from SSBs and were less likely to purchase an SSB than those consumers shown products without the labels.”

Nutrition 2019

Nutrition 2019 is the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held June 8-11, 2019 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

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