Tax on sugary beverages would reduce diabetes, obesity

A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would reduce cases of diabetes and obesity in the US, according to new research published in the January 2012 issue of Health Affairs.

An excise tax of one cent per ounce would reduce consumption of these beverages by 15 percent among adults ages 25 through 64 years, according to researchers from Columbia University, UC San Francisco and Virginia Tech.

Sugar-sweetened drinks are known contributors to the epidemics of diabetes and obesity in the US. Therefore, researchers estimate that the reduced consumption could prevent 2.6 percent of new diabetes cases and an estimated 2.4 million diabetes person-years over a 10-year period.

The study also found that such a tax could prevent 95,000 coronary heart events, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 premature deaths over the same 10-year period.

The tax could reduce the number of obese adults in the US by 1.5 percent.

Meanwhile, reduced consumption could help avoid more than $17 billion in medical costs related to complications from diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

The penny-per-ounce tax would equate to about a 10 percent increase in the cost of sugary beverages. It would generate approximately $13 billion in annual tax revenue.

Benefits to men
Men would gain the most benefits from such a tax, according to a MedPage Today article about the study.

Men ages 25 to 44 years would have a 1.3 lb. average weight loss and a 3.4 percent decrease in diabetes. They would suffer 22,000 fewer cases of coronary heart disease ad 4,000 fewer premature deaths as a result.

Older men would benefit as well. Those ages 45 to 64 years would lose a projected 0.7 lb but benefit from a 2.3 percent decrease in diabetes, 54,000 fewer cases of heart disease, and 15,000 fewer premature deaths, according to MedPage Today.

Diabetes epidemic
Diabetes affects 25.8 million people in the US or 8.3 percent of the US population, according to National Centers for Disease Control.

About 35 percent of US adults 20 years or older have prediabetes. About half of them are age 65 years or older.

Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. It's the leading cause of kidney failure, nontraumatic lower-limb amputations, and new cases of blindness among adults in the US.

Sources: Health Affairs, MedPage Today, National Centers for Disease Control

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