December 12, 2012
Tax On Soft Drinks And Junk Food Could Curb Obesity
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
As the New York City mayor tries to put an end to the growing obesity trend through limiting giant sodas in movie theaters, one study suggests maybe he should've implemented a sugary drink tax instead.
According to a study published in PLoS Medicine, taxing soft drinks and foods high in saturated fats could lead to beneficial dietary changes, potentially improving health for a nation.
During the study, the authors performed an analysis of 32 studies, all from high-income countries from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
They reviewed all relevant modeling studies that investigated the association between food pricing strategies, food consumption and chronic diseases.
The team found that studies that compared food pricing strategies by socio-economic group estimated improved health outcomes for those on lower incomes, which may be relatively greater than for those on higher incomes. This finding suggests that food pricing strategies have the potential to reduce inequalities.
"Based on modeling studies, taxes on carbonated drinks and saturated fat and subsidies on fruits and vegetables are associated with beneficial dietary change, with the potential for improved health," the authors wrote in the journal.
The researchers from New Zealand said that there would be a 0.02 percent fall in energy intake from saturated fat for every 1 percent price increase. A 10 percent increase in the price of soft drinks could decrease consumption by 1 percent to as much as 24 percent, according to the findings.
They also found that a 10 percent decrease in the price of fruits and vegetables could increase consumption by between 2 percent to 8 percent. However, the researchers said they found evidence to suggest that this subsidy might result in compensatory purchasing, with people buying less of other healthy products, like fish.
They said that the impact of any given food tax or subsidy is likely to differ by country, depending on factors like the type of tax systems implemented, health status, co-existing marketing, cultural norms, expendable income, and the social role of food.
"Given the limitations of the current evidence, robust evaluations must be planned when food pricing policies are implemented by governments," the authors said.
The team added that more research into compensatory purchasing and long-term population health outcomes for different socio-economic groups is still needed.