The researchers say that this option “deserves more research and consideration as part of an integrated approach to combat obesity,” as obesity rates are rising worldwide.
he uses taxes to reduce sugar and energy consumption has mainly focused on sugary drinks. But in the United Kingdom, high-sugar snacks, such as cookies, cakes, chocolates, and sweets, represent more free sugar than sugary drinks.
Therefore, reducing purchases of high-sugar snacks has the potential to have a greater impact on the health of the population than reducing the purchase of sugary drinks.
To explore this in more detail, the researchers used economic models to assess the impact of a 20 percent increase in the prices of these high-sugar pecking in the United Kingdom.
The model was based on food purchase data for 36,324 households in the United Kingdom and data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey for 2,544 adults. The results were grouped by family income and body mass index (BMI) to estimate changes in weight and the prevalence of obesity for one year.
The results suggest that for all income groups combined, increasing the price of cookies, cakes, chocolates, and candy by 20 percent would reduce the average annual energy intake by about 8,900 calories, which would lead to weight loss. average of 1.3 kg in a year.
On the contrary, a similar price increase in sugary drinks would result in an average weight loss of only 203 g for one year.
Also, the model predicts that the impact of the price increase would be greater in low-income households with higher obesity rates, suggesting that taxing snacks high in sugar could help reduce health inequalities caused for diet-related diseases, researchers say.
They point to some possible limitations of the study, such as the relatively short term of one year, on which the weight changes were modeled, but say the findings were based on information from high-quality databases and were largely maintained without changes after varying some key assumptions.
As such, they say that a 20 percent increase in the price of high-sugar snacks “has the potential to reduce the total energy purchased among all income groups and body mass indices in the United Kingdom, which leads to a reduction in the estimated population level in the prevalence of obesity of 2.7 percentage points after the first year. “
“The results also suggest that price increases in high-sugar snacks could also make an important contribution to reducing health inequalities caused by diet-related diseases,” they conclude.
There is strong justification for using fiscal policy to improve diet and health, but caution is needed, researchers say in a linked editorial.
They also argue that fiscal policies aimed at reducing the consumption of sugar, salt and saturated fats “could be useful, but do not encourage the consumption of healthy foods.”