Do policies targeting sugary drinks pay off?

New research suggests that taxes and health warnings could bring significant health and economic benefits by cutting consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages

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Credit: Anna Grummon, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Baltimore (June 9, 2019) – Drinks with added sugar, also known as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), are one of the largest sources of added sugar in the American diet and a major contributor to obesity. SSBs include non-diet sodas, flavored juice drinks, sports drinks, sweetened tea, coffee drinks, energy drinks and electrolyte replacement drinks. Research presented at Nutrition 2019 will examine how various policies could help reduce the consumption of these sugary beverages and improve health.

Nutrition 2019 is being held June 8-11, 2019 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Contact the media team for more information or to obtain a free press pass to attend the meeting.

Should we tax drinks with added sugar?

SSB taxes would decrease obesity-related cancer

A new study estimates that a national 1 cent per ounce of SSB tax could prevent around 17,000 new obesity-associated cancers cases and 10,000 cancer deaths. This modeling study estimates that this tax would save $2.4 billion in lifetime medical costs for 13 types of cancer. The largest health benefits were for endometrial, kidney and liver cancer. Christina Griecci, Tufts University, will present this research on Sunday, June 9, from 12:45 – 1:45 p.m. in the Baltimore Convention Center, Halls A-B (Poster 75) (abstract).

Which type of tax produces the most benefits?

Using a simulation model, researchers found either a tiered or sugar-content taxed structure that placed a higher tax on beverages containing more sugar produced more health gains and cost savings than a tax based on SSB volume. Over 10 years, a tiered tax on SSBs could prevent 460,000 cardiovascular events and 60,000 cases of diabetes and save 28 billion dollars in health care costs. A sugar content tax on SSBs could prevent 370,000 cardiovascular events and 50,000 cases of diabetes and save 21 billion dollars in health care costs while a volume tax on SSBs would prevent 240,000 cardiovascular events and 30,000 cases of diabetes and save 14 billion dollars in health care costs. Yujin Lee, Tufts University, will present this research on Tuesday, June 11, from 8:15 – 8:45 a.m. in the Baltimore Convention Center, Room 314/315 (abstract).

Do health warnings work?

Health warnings can discourage purchases

According to a study involving 400 adults, health warnings on SSBs can discourage the purchase of these drinks. Adults who typically drink sugary beverages were given $10 to spend at a life-size convenience store replica selling SSBs and other products. Study participants randomly assigned to a group in which SSBs in the store displayed health warnings purchased fewer calories from SSBs and were less likely to purchase an SSB than those consumers shown products without the labels. Anna Grummon, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, will present this research on Tuesday, June 11, from 8:30 – 8:45 a.m. in the Baltimore Convention Center, Room 314/315 (abstract).

Health warnings might also reduce obesity

A new simulation study reveals that using health warnings on SSBs across the U.S. could reduce average SSB intake by about 25 calories per day and total calorie intake by about 30 calories per day. These dietary changes could reduce average body mass index by about 0.6 kg/m2 over 5 years–equivalent to losing about 4 pounds for the average adult. The policy was also projected to reduce obesity prevalence by more than 5 million adults over this period. Weight loss would be most pronounced among Black or Hispanic adults as well as those with lower income and educational attainment. Anna Grummon, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, will present this research on Tuesday, June 11, from 8:45 – 9:00 a.m. in the Baltimore Convention Center, Room 314/315 (abstract).

SSBs are often for home consumption

A preliminary analysis found that nearly 80 percent of U.S. households purchase or acquire SSBs in a given week. On average, U.S. households acquire nearly 2000 calories from SSBs per week, with more than 60 percent of SSB calories acquired to bring home for later consumption. The researchers used data from the USDA Food Acquisition and Purchasing Survey, which collected 7 days of data on all foods purchased or obtained for free in a nationally representative sample of 4,826 households during 2012. These findings point to the need for interventions that target SSB consumption at home to reduce overall SSB acquisition. Stephen Onufrak, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will present this research on Monday, June 10, from 8:30 – 8:45 a.m. in the Baltimore Convention Center, Room 314/315 (abstract).

Additional sugar-sweetened beverages research from Nutrition 2019:

  • News Brief: What is the World Drinking? Study Reveals Global Intake of Major Beverages
  • Sugar-sweetened beverage and high fat diet consumption harmfully alters gut microbiota and promotes gut inflammation
  • The Relationship between Beverage Consumption and Prediabetes in Predominantly Low-Income Hispanic Children

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This release may include updated numbers or data that differ from those in the abstract submitted to Nutrition 2019.

Please note that abstracts presented at Nutrition 2019 were evaluated and selected by a committee of experts but have not generally undergone the same peer review process required for publication in a scientific journal. As such, the findings presented should be considered preliminary until a peer-reviewed publication is available.

About Nutrition 2019

Nutrition 2019 is the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held June 8-11, 2019 at the Baltimore Convention Center. It is the national venue for more than 3,600 top researchers, practitioners and other professionals to announce exciting research findings and explore their implications for practice and policy. Scientific symposia address the latest advances in cellular and physiological nutrition and metabolism, clinical and translational nutrition, global and public health, population science, and food science and systems. http://www.nutrition.org/N19 #Nutrition2019

About the American Society for Nutrition (ASN)

ASN is the preeminent professional organization for nutrition research scientists and clinicians around the world. Founded in 1928, the society brings together the top nutrition researchers, medical practitioners, policy makers and industry leaders to advance our knowledge and application of nutrition. ASN publishes four peer-reviewed journals and provides education and professional development opportunities to advance nutrition research, practice and education. http://www.nutrition.org

Find more news briefs and tipsheets at: https://www.eurekalert.org/meetings/nutrition/2019/newsroom/.

Media Contact
Anne Frances Johnson
media@nutrition.org

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