Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Taxing sodas and other sweetened drinks would result in only minimal weight loss

Taxing sodas and other sweetened drinks would result in only minimal weight loss..
Taxing sodas and other sweetened drinks would result in only minimal weight loss, although the revenues generated could be used to promote obesity control programs, new research suggests.

Adding to a spate of recent studies examining the impact of soda taxes on obesity, researchers from Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Graduate Medical School looked at the impact of 20 percent and 40 percent taxes on sales of carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, which also included sports and fruit drinks, among different income groups.

Because these taxes would simply cause many consumers to switch to other calorie-laden drinks, however, even a 40 percent tax would cut only 12.5 daily calories out of the average diet and result in a 1.3 pound weight loss per person per year, researchers said.

A 20 percent tax would equate to a daily 6.9 calorie intake reduction, adding up to no more than 0.7 pounds lost per person per year, according to the statistical model developed by the researchers.

"The taxes proposed as a remedy are largely on the grounds of preventing obesity, and we wanted to see if this would hold true," said study author Eric Finkelstein, an associate professor of health services at Duke-NUS. "It's certainly a salient issue. I assumed the effects would be modest in weight loss, and they were."

"I believe that any single measure aimed at reducing weight is going [to be small]," Finkelstein added. "But combined with other measures, it's going to add up. If higher taxes get people to lose weight, then good."

As part of a growing movement to treat unhealthy foods as vices such as tobacco and liquor, several states in recent years have pushed to extend sales taxes to the purchase of soda and other sweetened beverages, which, like other groceries, are usually exempt from state sales taxes.

Other motions have seemed to target the poor, such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal earlier this year to ban sugared drinks from groceries that could be purchased by residents on food stamps.

Finkelstein's study, reported online Dec. 13 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that high soda taxes wouldn't impact weight among consumers in the highest and lowest income groups. Using in-home scanners that tracked households' store-bought food and beverage purchases over the course of a year, the data included information on the cost and number of items purchased by brand and UPC code among different population groups.

Researchers estimated that a 20 percent soda tax would generate about $1.5 billion in annual revenue in the United States, while a 40 percent tax would generate about $2.5 billion. The average household cost would be $28.

Finkelstein explained that wealthier households seemed impervious to the tax because they can afford to pay it, while poorer income groups weren't as affected because they tend to buy lower-priced generic products or buy in bulk.

"It's largely very cheap calories for them," he said, adding that store brands such as Wal-Mart cola also contain more calories than the name-brand Coke.

Dr. Stephen Cook, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Golisano Children's Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), said the study is valuable because it echoes the results of others similar to it.

"It's good to see an amount of replication in the findings," said Cook, also an assistant professor of URMC's Center for Community Health. "It brings up an important point of how we should address obesity, as a disease or a public health threat."

Despite the modest weight loss resulting from the soda taxes, both Finkelstein and Cook support such a measure as one of many possible ways to attack obesity, which affects one-third of Americans.

As for the revenue generated, it can also tackle obesity if it's funneled toward weight-control programs and not other government initiatives, Cook said.

"The other side of the taxing coin is what we do with the money," Cook said. "We need to take the revenue and use it for interventional programs instead of it being used as a money grab. I think it's good when it's properly done and the money is used for those strategies."

Cook added that future measures could include taxing foods with added sugars as well as lowering the prices of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and skim milk.

More information

For more on obesity, go to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lifestyle Awards presents by Donga TV 2010 Korea

Lifestyle Awards presents by Donga TV 2010 Korea.
Samsung Electronics won the grand prize in lifestyle at the 2010 Korea Lifestyle Awards

Late legendary fashion designers, Andre Kim and Choi Kyung-ja, were given the year's fashion design contribution award.
The electronics giant won the prize for its smartphone Galaxy S and tablet computer Galaxy Tab in recognition of the products’ enormous influence on communication culture as well as their sales performance this year. The annual awards ceremony is hosted by Donga TV, part of the Herald Media group.

Actor So Ji-sub and actress Lee Min-Jeong were honored as the year’s best dressers. Late legendary fashion designers, Andre Kim and Choi Kyung-ja, were given the year’s fashion design contribution award. F(x), a popular girl group, was honored as the best style icon of the year.
The grand prize in the fashion and design industry was given to Daegu Metropolitan City, for its successful launching of a series of fashion related events and projects this year, including “Daegu Fashion Fair” and “Milan Project.”

Hana Bank won a grand prize for their savings products that offer special benefits to soon-to-be moms.
Restaurant Unamjeong was given the grand prize for food branding for their innovative yet traditional presentation of genuine Korean food. Opened in 2009, the restaurant is well-known among foreigners looking for an introduction to quality Korean cuisine.
JUVIS, a weight-loss institution owned by female CEO Cho Seong-gyeong, was awarded the grand prize as the best company for women. Its free weight-loss service for women and children of low-income families, as well as job creation for women who have specialized in food and nutrition, was highly regarded by the awards committee.

FOREVER 21, an American chain of clothing retailers, was honored as the best fashion brand of the year. Ever since its first Korean branch opened in Seoul in 2008, the brand has been gaining popularity, offering diverse fashion ideas and creative inspirations.