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Sugar Tax On Drinks May Reduce Obesity

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Academics from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa have shown more acceptance of a rise in taxes on sugar sweetened beverages.


The research paper is titled as “The potential impact of a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages on obesity in South African adults: A mathematical model,” and has been

published in PLOS ONE on 19 August 2014, which is a prestigious open-access journal.


The paper has been contributed by lead Mercy Manyema, Dr Lennert Veerman, Dr Lumbwe Chola, Professor Benn Sartorius, Aviva Tugendhaft, Professor Demetre Labadarios and Professor Karen Hofman. All these personalities hail from several reputed institutions such as Priority Cost Effective Lessons for System Strengthening (PRICELESS-SA) program in the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Unit in the Wits School of Public Health; The Discipline of Public Health Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, The School of Population Health at the University of Queensland, Australia, and the South African Human Sciences Research Council.


The paper targets the effect of taxing on sugar sweetened beverages all over South Africa. The lead Maniema, in the study measures the outcomes of a 20% tax on these

drinks and explains the prevalence of obesity among young adults in South Africa. It explains how taxing Sugar Sweetened Beverages could impact the burden of obesity in

South Africa, keeping in mind the young adults. It is just one component of a multi-faceted effort to prevent obesity.


This paper favors instituting a 20% tax, i.e. a 20% price hike per unit of SSBs. It has been predicted by analysts that this price hike is important to reduce energy intake of the populace by about 36 kilojoules in a day, which will result in a 3.8% reduction in obesity in men and a 2.4% reduction of that in women.


This translates as a decrease of about 220 000 obese adults and counting in South Africa. “It is the responsibility of the government to protect the health of its population. One way of doing so is through “nudging” people to make healthier and more sustainable choices. An SSB tax has the potential to do this in addressing obesity-related diseases,” says Manyema, a researcher from PRICELESS-SA.


Studies say that South Africans have become more obese over the past 30 years and is now being considered as the most obese nation in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is striking that over half the country’s adults are now overweight and obese; this means 42% of women and 13% of men.


Senior author of the paper and the director of PRICELESSS-SA says, “While SSBs alone may not be the only reason for an increase in body fat, these fizzy drinks do not contain any essential nutrients, have high sugar content and a strong link to weight gain. Drinking just one SSB a day increases the likelihood of being overweight by 27% for adults and 55% for children.”


“This is not surprising considering that one 330ml serving of a fizzy sweetened drink contains an average of eight teaspoons of sugar and the same size fruit juice contains an average of nine teaspoons of sugar.” Tugendhaft, also from PRICELESS-SA was quoted as saying.


Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has highly recommended the study explained by the paper and strongly suggests that the country needs to regulate foods that are high in sugar content in order to address issues related to obesity and the resultant diseases thereof.


The South African National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-2017 has listed taxes on foods that are high in sugar levels as a potential “best buy” to address diet and obesity.


The Mexican President also instituted a tax on SSBs in 2013. There is a rising awareness among nations like the UK, Ireland, Brazil India, which proves that policies such as a tax on SSBs are being highly favored as they can reduce consumption, which will eventually leading to reductions in population weight.