What is the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax? (Part 1)

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The data

Year 1975: 11 million children and adolescents in the world were obese. 
Year 2016: 124 million already are. (1)

Obesity2.png

That means that today there are 1130% more children and adolescents between ages 5 and 19 with obesity than four decades ago. Such an scary number, isn't it? Furthermore, one in three persons in the world is overweight or obese, according to the World Health Organization.

Many researches have demonstrated that excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) is one of the main reasons of those terrible numbers. (2)

 

But, what are sugar-sweetened beverages?

Any beverage sweetened with added sugars, that means, sugars that aren't naturally present in that beverage. These can be table sugar, syrups, dextrose...(3)

Some countries like France also include "light" and "zero" beverages within this type of products and the tax affects them as well. However, some other countries and institutions have left "light" beverages outside of this category. (4)

Which are SSBs?

Sodas; fruit beverages (nectars and most juices); energy and sports drinks; shakes, bottled coffees and teas...

All of these drinks have been added extra sugar that doesn't have any benefit for your health. Doesn't it make you think why those sugars have been added, then?

What is this tax and what is it useful for?

Is a tax that only applies to this kind of beverages with the main goal of reducing their excessive consumption among the population, and therefore limit the negative consequences of that consumption in people's health.

Also, another main goal of this tax might be bigger tax collection that can be addressed to general expenses or to specific initiatives, such as educational and prevention campaigns of non-communicable deseases like type 2 diabetes. 

Where is this tax already being used?

It was created back in the 80's in Norway and Samoa (a little country from Oceania). From 2002 it started to be introduced in many other countries, regions and cities, such as France, Belgium, Mexico or Philadelphia. (5)

In Spain, only Catalonia has implemented this tax and it has had really positive outcomes: in less than a year, SSB consumption was reduced by a good 22%, specially in zones with high prevalence of obesity. (6)

Does the tax work? (7)

It does. A year after it was introduced in Mexico, consumption of SSB was reduced up to a 17% in  low income families (the most vulnerable to unhealthy habits); consumption was also reduced mostly in urban environments and families with children.

In Philadelphia (US) the likelihood of individuals drinking SSBs daily was reduced up to 64%, and it turned into a 58% likelihood of choosing water instead.

I also mentioned above the great example of Catalonia (Spain).

Do SSBs have any nutritional value?

They don't. They are drinks overloaded with calories that don't have any benefit to your health , specially if you drink them in excess and you don't follow another healthy lifestyle patterns.

There is not a recommended amount to consume: the less you do it, the better. In order to limit their bad consequences for your health, just don't drink them or do it very, very moderately.

But you also need to choose healthy foods and get in good form! It isn't helpful if you don't drink any SSB but then you feed yourself with junk food and you remain sited for the whole day ;-)

Don't give this to children! Source: www.sinazucar.org

There's a large consensus between healthcare professionals and nutritionists about the non-existent benefits of bottled juices (specially for kiddos!). Nectars, as an example, are usually a mix of water, sugar, "weird things" and a liiiitle bit of juice. Find your vitamins in a different aliment!

Do you know what the official name for those nectars is in Spain? “Refreshing beverage of partially fruit juice made from concentrate with sweeteners”. Way too different from the word "juice"! :-)

Another example are the self-called "hydration" or "sports" sodas or beverages. They are not even close to be an effective way of fluid replenishment. Athletes barely use them: there's many more different options to rehydrate without filling your body with unnecessary sugars!

Is there any beverage that you specially don't like? Do you have any questions? What do you think about the tax? Leave your comment below or in the blog's social media channels!

And don't miss the part 2 of the post (which probably will be posted next week), where some experts will give their point of view about SSB's negative effects and about the tax. See you then!

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[References]

(1) http://www.who.int/news-room/detail/11-10-2017-tenfold-increase-in-childhood-and-adolescent-obesity-in-four-decades-new-study-by-imperial-college-london-and-who

(2) World Cancer Research Fund International (2018). Building momentum: lessons on implementing a robust sugar sweetened beverage tax. Available at www.wcrf.org/buildingmomentum

(3) https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/sugar-sweetened-beverages-intake.html

(4) See reference #2

(5) See reference #2

(6) https://www.lavanguardia.com/economia/20180409/442366946994/consumo-bebidas-azucaradas-catalunya-impuesto.html

(7) World Cancer Research Fund International (2018). Building momentum: lessons on implementing a robust sugar sweetened beverage tax. Building Momentum evidence table: effects of implemented SSB taxes. Available at

(Special thanks to Simón Barquera, Executive Director of Nutrition and Health Research Center at the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico).