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Sugary beverages

British officials mull imposing new 20 percent tax on sugary beverages

Sunday, November 10, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: sugary beverages, 20 percent tax, British officials

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(NaturalNews) Authorities in the U.K. are considering the implementation of a new tax that they claim will help curb obesity and promote healthier living. BBC News reports that a new study recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that a 20 percent tax on sugary beverages like soda pop and processed sports drinks would help curb the number of obese Brits by some 180,000 folks, which in turn would help reduce the financial burden on the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS).

The report looked specifically at what a 20 percent tax would accomplish in terms of overall health outcomes by evaluating adults aged 16 and over based on their consumption patterns. After crunching the numbers, the research team from the University of Oxford, the U.K. Health Forum and the University of Reading determined that the tax would lead to a 1.3 percent reduction in the number of obese adults, and a 0.9 percent reduction in the number of overweight adults.

Since an added 20 percent tax would substantially increase the costs associated with purchasing sugary drinks, the average adult would presumably consume about 15 percent less of them, on average. According to the data, this consumption reduction would also lead to an overall calorie reduction of about 28 calories per person, per week. And the most significant reductions in both of these categories would occur in the 16-29 years of age group.

"Sugar-sweetened drinks are known to be bad for health and our research indicates that a 20 percent tax could result in a meaningful reduction in the number of obese adults in the U.K.," says Dr. Adam Briggs, lead author of the study from Oxford's Nuffield Department of Population Health. Dr. Briggs believes implementing the tax will be "a promising population measure."

But others are not convinced, including Gavin Partington from the British Soft Drinks Association. Partington and others allege that sugary beverages are just one small component of the overall dietary picture, and that many other factors also influence obesity. In his view, soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages represent a mere two percent of overall caloric intake among those that consume them, which is hardly substantial.

"There's ample evidence to suggest that taxing soft drinks won't curb obesity, not least because its causes are far more complex than this simplistic approach implies," Partington is quoted as saying by BBC News. "Trying to blame one set of products is misguided, particularly when they comprise a mere two percent of calories in the average diet."

Multiple studies link high-fructose corn syrup, refined sugar to obesity and diabetes

But numerous studies have indicated that refined sugars like the types added to soft drinks are directly linked to obesity, including a systematic study review put out back in 2005. Released by the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), this particular review of 21 studies on the subject found that 19 of them identified a direct link between soda consumption and obesity, especially as people who drink soda tend to consume more calories from other foods.

"There's so much damning evidence," stated Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of CSPI, at the time of the study's release, as quoted by Medical News Today. "This is just sugar water. The real need is for laws and regulations that would help rein in soft drink consumption."

On the other hand, better regulation of the types of sugars allowed in soft drinks is probably more pertinent, as additives like high-fructose corn syrup and refined beet sugar, both of which are derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are much more insidious than something like organic evaporated cane juice. These considerations are often ignored when it comes to crafting policies like this new proposed "sweet" tax, which erroneously lumps all sugars into the same harmful category.

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