European Congress on Obesity
European Congress on Obesity
Perspective from Stephen Cook, MD, MPH
May 22, 2017
2 min read

Sugar-sweetened beverage tax may lower consumption in Irish children

Perspective from Stephen Cook, MD, MPH
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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


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.