Higher taxes on sweetened drinks may not be enough to curb obesity

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Washington, Dec 14 (ANI): A new research has found that imposing higher taxes on sodas and other sweetened drinks may generate a lot of money - but leads to only minimal weight loss among most people.

The research conducted by Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Graduate Medical School also stated that it would have no effect on weight among consumers in the highest and lowest income groups.

The study, led by Eric Finkelstein, looked at the differential impact on calories and weight of a 20 percent and 40 percent tax on sodas and other sweetened beverages among different income groups.

The team examined store-bought purchases of carbonated and non-carbonated drinks, including sodas, diet carbonated beverages, sports/energy drinks, fruit drinks, fruit juice and skim and whole milk and used statistical techniques to quantify how changes in prices affected household buying habits.

Unlike prior analyses, the study calculated both weight losses resulting from reductions in soda purchases as a result of the tax and weight gains due to switching to other beverages.

"If consumers switch from Coke to Diet Coke or water there would be no offsetting gains. If they switch to other high calorie drinks, the effects of the tax would be diluted," said Finkelstein.

Study coauthor Chen Zhen, a research economist at RTI International, said these taxes are regressive in the sense that the tax paid as a percentage of household income is greater for lower income households than for higher income households.

"However, because poor households purchase far more generic brands that are significantly cheaper, they pay a smaller share of the total tax revenue," said Zhen.

Finkelstein added, "Although small, given the rising trend in obesity rates, especially among youth, any strategy that shows even modest weight loss should be considered."

He further noted, "Extending the tax to restaurants and vending machines would generate more tax revenue and perhaps greater weight losses."

The research appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine. (ANI)

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