Taxes on sugary drinks and high fat foods could improve health

December 11, 2012

Taxes on soft drinks and foods high in saturated fats and subsidies for fruit and vegetables could lead to beneficial dietary changes and potentially improve health, according to a study by experts from New Zealand published in this week's PLOS Medicine.

Helen Eyles and colleagues from the University of Auckland and the University of Otago (Wellington) reached these conclusions by reviewing all relevant modelling studies that investigated the association between food , and (often referred to as non-communicable diseases, which includes conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes).

In their combined analysis of 32 studies (all from high-income countries from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the authors' model predicted a 0.02% fall in energy intake from saturated fat for each 1% price increase. Likewise, a 10% increase in the price of could decrease consumption by 1% to as much as 24%.

In contrast, the authors found that a 10% decrease in the price of fruits and vegetables could increase consumption by between 2% to 8%. However, the authors found evidence to suggest that such a subsidy might result in compensatory purchasing with people buying less of other healthy products, such as fish, or more of less healthy products (e.g. sugar), which may not be beneficial to health overall.

The authors also 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 suggests that food pricing strategies also have the potential to reduce inequalities.

The authors say: "Based on modelling studies, taxes on and saturated fat and subsidies on are associated with beneficial dietary change, with the potential for improved health. "

The authors continue: "It must be noted that the impact of any given food tax or subsidy is likely to differ by country depending on factors such as the type of tax system implemented, health status, co-existent marketing, cultural norms, expendable income, and the social role of food."

The authors add: "Given the limitations of the current evidence, robust evaluations must be planned when food pricing policies are implemented by governments."

The authors conclude: "Additional research into possible compensatory purchasing and long-term population health outcomes for different socio-economic groups is needed."

Explore further: 20 percent 'fat tax' needed to improve population health: experts

More information: Eyles H, Ni Mhurchu C, Nghiem N, Blakely T (2012) Food Pricing Strategies, Population Diets, and Non-Communicable Disease: A Systematic Review of Simulation Studies. PLoS Med 9(12): e1001353. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001353

Related Stories

20 percent 'fat tax' needed to improve population health: experts

May 15, 2012
Taxes on unhealthy food and drinks would need to be at least 20% to have a significant effect on diet-related conditions such as obesity and heart disease, say experts in the British Medical Journal today. Ideally, this should ...

Obesity study shows fat tax is not the answer

November 16, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- New research from the University of Reading suggests that a ‘fat tax' might not be the best way to tackle Britain's obesity problems.

Low and middle income countries are the recent targets of processed food manufacturers

June 26, 2012
"There is significant penetration by multinational processed food manufacturers such as Nestle, Kraft, PepsiCo, and Danone into food environments in low-and-middle income countries, where consumption of unhealthy commodities ...

Recommended for you

Study finds walnuts may promote health by changing gut bacteria

July 28, 2017
Research led by Lauri Byerley, PhD, RD, Research Associate Professor of Physiology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, has found that walnuts in the diet change the makeup of bacteria in the gut, which suggests ...

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Could insufficient sleep be adding centimeters to your waistline?

July 27, 2017
Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study.

Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

July 27, 2017
Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.