Research shows sugary drink tax may lead to health gains

23 June 2020

Research published in the American Heart Association's flagship journal Circulation suggests that significant health gains and a lowering of healthcare costs may result from the institution of some form of sugary drink tax regime. 

The consumption of sugar-rich beverages is linked to increased rates of incidents of dental caries, obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and in the US, where the research was conducted, sugary drinks are the primary source of sugar intake by 60% of children and about half of all adults. 

The microsimulation model used in the research evaluated three types of sugary drink taxation, as outlined by News Medical: Life Sciences: 

Boston researchers [tested] a flat ‘volume tax’ by drink volume ($0.01 per ounce), the only type used in U.S. cities to-date; a ‘tiered sugar content tax’ by 3 levels of sugar content (ranging from $0.00 for less than 5 grams of added sugars per 8 ounces, to $0.02 per ounce of added sugars for more than 20 grams of added sugars per 8 ounces); and a ‘fixed sugar content tax’ by absolute sugar content ($0.01 per teaspoon of added sugars, regardless of the number of ounces).” 

The results of all three types of testing suggested that while each would lead to a lowering of health costs and prevention of a number of chronic health conditions, the tiered option was likely to be the most successful approach. 

"Overwhelming evidence confirms that food prices have a big impact on purchasing decisions. Taxing sugary drinks influences consumer choices, reducing consumption," said Yujin Lee, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston and the co-lead study author. 

"U.S. cities have introduced volume taxes on sugary drinks. But our findings suggest that a tiered fixed sugar content tax would be best, reducing consumer intakes while also encouraging manufacturer reformulations to reduce the sugar content of their products." 

For the full article, go to “Simulation model reveals how sugary drink tax designs could impact health gains, costs”