'Fat taxes' could save billons in healthcare costs: study

February 14, 2017
food
Credit: Maliz Ong

Taxing unhealthy foods that contain salt, sugar and fat could save Australia billions in health care costs and extend people's lives by coaxing them to eat better, researchers said Tuesday.

The study in the journal PLOS Medicine modeled the impact of raising prices on certain foods, and assumed that costlier snacks and comfort foods would lead to changes in consumer behavior.

Such taxes could save Australia AUD$3.4 billion (USD$2.3 billion) "over the remaining lifetimes of all Australians alive in 2010," said the study, led by Linda Cobiac of the University of Melbourne.

A number of other Western countries have already implemented or proposed taxes on unhealthy foods and drinks in a bid to curb the obesity epidemic.

The study modeled the effect of taxing saturated fat, salt, sugar, and sugar-sweetened beverages in Australia, as well as the impact from subsidizing fruits and vegetables.

The most significant gains could be achieved by taxing sugar, which the study said could avert 270,000 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)—or years of healthy lifespan lost due to disease.

"That is a gain of 1.2 years of healthy life for every 100 Australians alive in 2010," said the study.

"Few other public health interventions could deliver such health gains on average across the whole population."

The second-greatest impact was seen in a salt tax, followed by a saturated-fat tax and a sugar-sweetened beverage tax.

Adding subsidies for fruits and vegetables "reduced health sector spending, but on their own were not estimated to lead to a clear health benefit," said the study.

The taxes and subsidies were limited to allow for less than a one percent change in total food spending for the average household.

Researchers cautioned that they attempted to simulate consumer behavior in various hypothetical circumstances, leaving room for uncertainty.

"For example, we are reliant on other research estimating the responsiveness of the public to changes in food prices. There are also implementation issues for the food industry," said the study.

"Nevertheless, this study adds to the growing evidence of large health benefits and cost-effectiveness of using taxes and regulatory measures to influence the consumption of healthy foods."

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

More information: Cobiac LJ, Tam K, Veerman L, Blakely T (2017) Taxes and Subsidies for Improving Diet and Population Health in Australia: A Cost-Effectiveness Modelling Study. PLoS Med 14(2): e1002232. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002232

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 ...

Low-cost salt-reduction policy would save millions of lives worldwide

January 10, 2017
A government policy to reduce salt intake by 10% over 10 years would be highly cost effective in nearly every country in the world, even without accounting for healthcare savings, finds a study published by The BMJ today.

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 ...

Sugary drinks tax would offer big benefits

April 14, 2016
A 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened drinks would result in widespread, long-lasting public health benefits and significant health cost savings, a new study shows.

A combined carbon and sugar tax could have environmental and health benefits

February 2, 2016
A combination of a carbon tax on food and a tax on sugary drinks in the UK could lead to health benefits, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and raise up to GB£3.6 billion revenue, according to research published in the open ...

Recommended for you

Number of older people with four or more diseases will double by 2035, say researchers

January 23, 2018
A study published today in Age and Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society, reports that the number of older people diagnosed with four or more diseases will double between 2015 and 2035. A third ...

Placental accumulation of flame retardant chemical alters serotonin production in rats

January 22, 2018
A North Carolina State University-led research team has shown a connection between exposure to a widely used flame retardant chemical mixture and disruption of normal placental function in rats, leading to altered production ...

Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant

January 22, 2018
Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple's chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

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.