How much would Sugary Drink Tax Reduce Obesity?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Adam D M Briggs
Academic Clinical Fellow
British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: For the first time this study estimates the impact of a
sugary drinks tax in the UK on obesity. We estimate the
tax would reduce the number of adults with obesity by
around 180,000 or just over 1% of all adults who are
obese, and the number of adults who are either overweight
or obese by 285,000. The greatest reductions are seen in
young adults. We also estimate that the effects of the tax
will be similar across all income groups.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: There is some debate as to what the effect of such a tax
may have on different income groups with some researchers,
and commentators, suggesting that the health gains would
be greatest in lower income groups due to higher levels of
soft drink consumption and a greater prevalence of
obesity. However, our estimates indicate that in the UK,
changes in obesity will be similar across all income
groups. Although perhaps this is not wholly unexpected as
some other research groups have also estimated similar
outcomes, it does go against much of the perceived wisdom.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your
report?

Answer: Our results indicate that a 20% tax on sugar sweetened
drinks is a promising population measure to target
population obesity in the UK, particularly among younger
adults. However, it should not be seen as a panacea and
could instead form part of a holistic approach to tackle
obesity.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: The next steps will be to investigate the potential impact
of such a tax by population groups defined by the level of
consumption of sugar sweetened drinks (something we have
not been able to do here). It would also be important to
try to characterize the effect of any negative publicity
surrounding sugar sweetened drinks arising from a tax.
Finally, the response from industry of this type of tax is
unclear. Ideally, a government will introduce a tax of
this nature allowing for proper population level
evaluation as a natural experiment.

Overall  and income specific effect on prevalence of
overweight and obesity of  20% sugar sweetened drink tax
in UK: econometric and comparative risk  assessment
modeling study.

Citation:

Overall and income specific effect on prevalence of overweight and obesity of 20% sugar sweetened drink tax in UK: econometric and comparative risk assessment modelling study

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f6189 (Published 31 October 2013)

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6189

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