Studies offer differing perspectives on effectiveness of a sugar tax

effectiveness of a sugar tax
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Two studies, one conducted in Spain, the other in the United Kingdom, have sought to measure how effective a sugar tax is when it comes to decreasing consumption of sugary drinks.

In the case of the UK study—published in British Medical Journal—the news was reasonably positive, with findings showing that a sugar tax, applied in this case to manufacturers to encourage them to reduce the sugar content in their products, would most likely improve public health while not harming the sugary drink industry. 

That might seem like a contradictory result, but it appears that consumers are opting for lower sugar drinks when they buy sugary drinks but that they are still buying as much soft drinks as before, a sign that they are heeding the fact that sugar is not beneficial for good oral or overall health. 

With high sugar consumption known to be a major contributor to an increased risk of dental caries, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, any downward trend in the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) is to be welcomed. 

Meanwhile in Spain, a sugar tax instituted in Catalonia has had, according to News Medical: Life Sciences, “only a limited, moderate effect in shifting people’s dietary habits and behaviors [sic]”.

The research—published in Social Science & Medicine—compared the shopping baskets of people in Catalonia with the rest of Spain which does not have a sugar tax in place. 

While the purchase of high SSBs which are taxed did decline, consumers substituted these with lower sugar untaxed options meaning the overall sugar reduction was a modest 2.2 per cent, equalling only 3.7 calories per person per month. 

It is hoped the results will provide guidance to policymakers with researchers suggesting that for “these taxes to be more effective, they need to be more visible at the checkout so that consumers become increasingly aware of the added cost of their high-sugar choices”. 

This article was sourced from the News & Media page on the ADA website.

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