A recent study suggests that the introduction of a sugar tax on sweet soft drinks holds the potential to save up to 16 billion euros and prevent a range of illnesses. Conducted by researchers from the Technical University of Munich and the British University of Liverpool, the study indicates that a tax on sugary beverages could have significant positive implications for public health.
The findings, published in the specialized journal "PLOS Medicine," indicate that the implementation of a soft drinks tax could lead to a reduction in sugar consumption and a subsequent decrease in the incidence of various illnesses. The researchers argue that such measures could not only reduce economic costs but also alleviate the strain on the health system.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a specific tax rate of at least 20 percent on sugary drinks globally to address the adverse health effects associated with high sugar consumption. While many countries have already adopted tax measures to counter the consumption of sugary products, Germany has primarily relied on a voluntary commitment from the beverage industry, a strategy that studies suggest has yielded limited results. The Munich study, however, underscores the potential effectiveness of a tax in the country, asserting that it could lead to a significant reduction in the risks of obesity and related illnesses.
The study distinguishes between two types of sugar taxes: one targeting a general reduction in soft drink consumption and another focused on altering the recipes of these beverages. International studies suggest that a tax based on overall consumption would primarily result in reduced demand for soft drinks. Conversely, a tax based on sugar content could prompt changes in beverage recipes.
The simulation conducted by the researchers indicates that a flat-rate 20 percent surcharge on soft drink prices could lead to a decrease of one gram of sugar per day per person in Germany. For men aged between 30 and 49, this reduction is estimated to be just under three grams per day. The study suggests that an even more impactful approach would be a 30 percent reduction in sugar content, akin to the graduated manufacturer levy introduced in Great Britain. This could result in a reduction of 2.3 grams of sugar per day per person in Germany and up to 6.1 grams for men aged 30 to 49.
According to the study's calculations, both taxation options would lead to a significant decrease in obesity and cardiovascular diseases, with a particularly pronounced effect on the incidence of type 2 diabetes. The first author of the study, Karl Emmert Fees, highlights that the models indicate a potential reduction of up to 244,100 cases of type 2 diabetes over the next 20 years.
Beyond the health benefits, the researchers project substantial economic savings, estimating around 16 billion euros in the period from 2023 to 2043 with a staggered manufacturer levy, with approximately 4 billion euros attributed to healthcare cost savings. A 20 percent tax, while still impactful, would yield a total savings of around 9.5 billion euros.
Notably, the study did not account for individuals under the age of 30 in its calculations, as the majority of the modeled diseases tend to occur in the later stages of life. However, Emmert-Fees emphasizes that considering the high soft drink consumption among teenagers, factoring in younger individuals could lead to even more significant reductions in sugar consumption and greater positive health effects.
Recent research presented in the journal "BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health" reinforces the potential benefits of a sugar tax. The study, focusing on the impact of the sugar tax in Great Britain, indicates positive effects on the dental health of young people, with a twelve percent decrease in the number of under-18s undergoing tooth extraction due to decay within two years of the tax's introduction in 2018."
Image by evelynlo from Pixabay