-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Taxing sodas and other sugary
beverages won't help reduce obesity because consumers would switch
to other high-calorie foods and drinks that aren't taxed, a new
The researchers came to their conclusion after analyzing data on
household food purchases made by Americans in 2006. The findings
were published in the
American Journal of Agricultural Economics.
"Instituting a sugary-beverage tax may be an appealing public-policy option to curb obesity, but it's not as easy to use taxes to curb obesity as it is with smoking," study lead author Chen Zhen, a research economist at RTI International, said in a journal news release.
"Consumers can simply substitute an untaxed high-calorie food for a taxed one," Zhen said. "And as we know, reducing calories is just one of many ways to promoting healthy eating and reducing nutrition-related chronic disease."
In the United States, about 36 percent of adults and 17 percent
of children and teens are obese. A previous RTI study found that
medical costs associated with obesity are $147 billion or more per
A soda tax has been proposed by public-health advocates who hope
higher prices will deter unhealthy food purchases.
Taking another approach to combat obesity, New York City Mayor
Michael Bloomberg attempted to ban the sale of many large-size
sweetened drinks, but the effort has been struck down twice, most
recently by an appeals court. The higher court ruled that the
city's Board of Health did not have authority to approve the soda
restrictions. The rule was also flawed by loopholes and exemptions,
the court said.
For the current study, the researchers also looked at
differences between lower- and higher-income households. Foods and
beverages purchased by lower-income families tended to be higher in
calories, fat and sodium content than those bought by higher-income
"Because lower-income families tend to buy more sugary soft drinks than higher-income families, they would more readily reap the health benefits of reduced sugary-beverage intake," Zhen said. "However, they would also pay more in beverage taxes, making it a regressive tax."
The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and
the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more
overweight and obesity.
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