March 02, 2016
2 min read

Tax on sugary drinks, subsidized fruits and vegetables could improve CVD outcomes

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A 10% price reduction on healthy foods combined with a 10% price increase for sugar-sweetened beverages could prevent 515,000 CVD-related deaths in the United States by 2035, researchers reported at the American Heart Association’s EPI/Lifestyle Scientific Sessions.

“A change in your diet can be challenging, but if achieved through personal choice or changes in the market place, it can have a profound effect on your [CV] health,” Thomas Gaziano, MD, MSc, assistant professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a press release.

The researchers used a microsimulation CVD risk-prediction model of 1 million adults aged 25 years and older from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to investigate whether changes in food prices would affect dietary patterns and CV health over time. According to the researchers, the baseline cohort was expanded by adding additional groups of 35-year olds and intervention effectiveness data. The model factored in patient risk factors, CVD risk equations and intervention effectiveness data.

A 10% subsidy on the cost of fruits and vegetables was predicted to reduce CVD mortality by 1.2% in 5 years and by almost 2% in 20 years. When Gaziano and colleagues further analyzed the data, they predicted a 2.6% decrease in MI and a 4% decrease in stroke over 20 years, according to a press release.

A 10% subsidy on the cost of whole grains was predicted to reduce CVD mortality by 0.2% in 5 years and by 0.3% in 20 years, and MI by 0.83% and 0.77%, respectively.

A 10% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages was predicted to reduce CVD mortality by 0.1% in 5 years and by 0.12% in 20 years. The researchers predicted a 0.25% decrease in MI and a 0.17% decrease in stroke over 20 years. In addition, the prevalence of diabetes was predicted to decrease by 0.2% in 5 years and by 0.7% in 20 years, according to the press release.

Combined, the model shows that by 2035 it would be possible to prevent 515,000 deaths from CVD and nearly 675,000 events such as MI and stroke in the United States with these taxes and subsidies, according to the researchers. If one additional serving of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and one less 8-oz sugar-sweetened beverage were consumed each day, it could prevent nearly 3.5 million deaths and 4 million CV events over a 2-year period, according to the release.

Dariush Mozaffarian

Dariush Mozaffarian

“We believe these findings support the need for government-supported pilot studies to test the combination of taxes and subsidies on healthier eating in different population groups,” Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, told Cardiology Today. “We also plan further research to investigate cost-effectiveness of these policies and the impact of taxes, subsidies, and other policies on a range of other foods and disease outcomes.” – by Tracey Romero


Gaziano T, et al. Abstract P280. Presented at: American Heart Association’s EPI/Lifestyle Scientific Sessions; March 1-4, 2016; Phoenix.

Disclosure: The study was funded by the NIH/NHLBI. Gaziano reports no relevant financial disclosures. Mozaffarian reports receiving ad hoc honoraria or consultant fees from AstraZeneca, Boston Heart Diagnostics, DSM, Haas Avocado Board, GOED and Life Sciences Research Organization, and chapter royalties from UpToDate; he also serves on the advisory board for Elysium Health.