Meeting NewsPerspective

Sugar-sweetened beverage tax may lower consumption in Irish children

As expected, intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is greater among children with overweight or obesity compared with normal-weight children, suggesting that taxing these beverages may curb consumption, according to findings presented at the European Congress on Obesity.

Janas Harrington, PhD, a lecturer in epidemiology and public health at University College Cork in Ireland, and colleagues evaluated data from the Cork Children’s Lifestyle Study on 1,075 Irish children aged 8 to 11 years to determine the association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and overweight and obesity.

Janas Harrington
Janas Harrington

Participants completed 3-day food diaries to assess consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages; BMI was used to define obesity. Data from 724 participants whose energy intake was in the normal range were included in the analysis.

Overall, 16% of the 724 participants had overweight and 2% had obesity; 82% consumed sugar-sweetened beverages, with a mean consumption of 328 mL per day. Consumption accounted for 6% of total calorie intake and 22% of total sugar intake.

Participants who consumed more than 200 mL of sugar-sweetened beverages per day had higher odds for overweight or obesity compared with participants who consumed less than that amount (OR = 1.9; 95% CI, 1.1-3.5).

“While no single measure will reverse current trends in obesity, given the high level of consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and the lack of nutritional value of these products, action needs to be taken to reduce consumption, particularly in children,” Harrington said in a press release. “There is a compelling case for the introduction of public policy to reduce sugar-sweetened drink consumption in the population. The introduction of a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks in combination with other health interventions has the potential to have a measurable effect on the scale of the epidemic of childhood obesity.”

According to the press release, the Irish government plans to introduce a sugar tax in 2018.

“It is unlikely that the introduction of the tax will have a direct short-term impact on obesity levels, it is more likely to have indirect impacts, such as reducing the consumption of these beverages; increasing consumption of nonsugar beverages, such as water; product reformulation; and changing public attitudes,” Harrington said. “This will be a fascinating experiment in public health policy.” – by Amber Cox

Reference:

Harrington JM, et al. Poster T2P39. Presented at: European Congress on Obesity; May 17-20, 2017; Porto, Portugal.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

 

As expected, intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is greater among children with overweight or obesity compared with normal-weight children, suggesting that taxing these beverages may curb consumption, according to findings presented at the European Congress on Obesity.

Janas Harrington, PhD, a lecturer in epidemiology and public health at University College Cork in Ireland, and colleagues evaluated data from the Cork Children’s Lifestyle Study on 1,075 Irish children aged 8 to 11 years to determine the association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and overweight and obesity.

Janas Harrington
Janas Harrington

Participants completed 3-day food diaries to assess consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages; BMI was used to define obesity. Data from 724 participants whose energy intake was in the normal range were included in the analysis.

Overall, 16% of the 724 participants had overweight and 2% had obesity; 82% consumed sugar-sweetened beverages, with a mean consumption of 328 mL per day. Consumption accounted for 6% of total calorie intake and 22% of total sugar intake.

Participants who consumed more than 200 mL of sugar-sweetened beverages per day had higher odds for overweight or obesity compared with participants who consumed less than that amount (OR = 1.9; 95% CI, 1.1-3.5).

“While no single measure will reverse current trends in obesity, given the high level of consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and the lack of nutritional value of these products, action needs to be taken to reduce consumption, particularly in children,” Harrington said in a press release. “There is a compelling case for the introduction of public policy to reduce sugar-sweetened drink consumption in the population. The introduction of a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks in combination with other health interventions has the potential to have a measurable effect on the scale of the epidemic of childhood obesity.”

According to the press release, the Irish government plans to introduce a sugar tax in 2018.

“It is unlikely that the introduction of the tax will have a direct short-term impact on obesity levels, it is more likely to have indirect impacts, such as reducing the consumption of these beverages; increasing consumption of nonsugar beverages, such as water; product reformulation; and changing public attitudes,” Harrington said. “This will be a fascinating experiment in public health policy.” – by Amber Cox

Reference:

Harrington JM, et al. Poster T2P39. Presented at: European Congress on Obesity; May 17-20, 2017; Porto, Portugal.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

 

    Perspective
    Stephen Cook

    Stephen Cook

    This is an interesting epidemiology study on eating patterns in kids, but we have to be cautious. Dietary recall data is very difficult to collect and typically inaccurate and underreported. It does show a pattern of kids in the higher weight groups of overweight/obesity having higher amounts of consumption. This is to be expected, but my main concern is the overcall by the authors to state that this work supports or provides evidence for taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages/sugar-sweetened drinks. Its epidemiological data and cross-sectional, but making this type of statement jumps outside the domain of the findings. I do believe that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages/sugar-sweetened drinks could help curb purchasing of sugar-sweetened beverages, and probably curb consumption. The authors do state that this could be part of a multicomponent strategy to address obesity, but it glosses over the enormity of the other strategies that also need to be incorporated. They also make no mention about what do to with the revenue generated with this tax. If those funds are put toward additional evidence-based strategies that are not currently covered or paid for, then perhaps, we are getting closer to this point.

    • Stephen Cook, MD, MPH
    • Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester Medical Center

    Disclosures: Cook reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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