Study finds that UK sugar tax could save thousands from diabetes and obesity

The planned sugar tax in the United Kingdom will significantly improve the health of children and reduce the number of people who become obese, a study suggests. This increase in prices is predicted to reduce consumption of the sugary drinks and this in turn will reduce the obesity and improve health of children as well as adults.

HM Revenue & Customs has announced two tax thresholds, at 5g and 8g of sugar per 100ml, for the “sugar tax”, which will come into force in April 2018.

These scenarios were reformulating drinks to lower sugar content, raising the price of sugary drinks and encouraging consumers to switch to lower sugar drinks. In this new study, they looked to predict the effects of the levy by mapping a realistic better and worse case scenario for health.

Dr Adam Briggs, from Oxford University, who led the research published in The Lancet Public Health journal, said: “Our study provides the first estimates of the likely health impact of the United Kingdom soft drinks levy”.

Passing on half of the cost of the levy to consumers with a price rise for high and mid-sugar drinks of up to 20 per cent could reduce the number of adults and children with obesity by 81,600, result in 10,800 fewer diabetes cases and 14,900 fewer decaying teeth a year.

It also found that reducing sugar content of all high-sugar drinks by 30% and moderately sugary drinks by 15% would lead to 19,000 fewer cases of Type 2 diabetes, and 269,000 fewer instances of tooth decay.

The less tax paid under the scheme, the more successful it would be in improving health, researchers said, as it would mean consumers were eating less sugar.

“We also reiterate the importance of evaluating the true impact of the sugar tax, once it is introduced, so that the United Kingdom can provide much needed evidence to other countries that are considering emulating this potentially powerful public health intervention”.

Author Professor Susan Jebb, from Oxford University said: “If you reformulate, it’s health by stealth”, she said.

He said the levy would “disproportionately impact” the independent trade and urged the government to work with suppliers and retailers instead of imposing the “blunt instrument of a soft drinks levy”.