Nav: Home

The Lancet Public Health: UK soft drinks industry levy estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children

December 15, 2016

The UK soft drinks industry levy, due to be introduced in April 2018, is estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children, according to the first study to estimate its health impact, published in The Lancet Public Health.

The proposed levy relates to the sugar content of drinks: no tax on diet and low sugar drinks; a low tax on mid-sugar drinks (5-8g of sugar per 100ml); and a high tax on high-sugar drinks (over 8g of sugar per 100ml). [1]

In the study, researchers modelled three ways that the soft drinks industry may respond to the levy: reformulating drinks to reduce sugar content, passing some of the levy to consumers by raising the price of sugary drinks, and using marketing to encourage consumers to switch to lower sugar drinks. For each response they identified a realistic better and worse case scenario for health [2], by estimating the likely impact on rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

The study finds that an industry response that focuses on reducing sugar content is likely to have the greatest impact on health, with additional benefits if industry increases the price of high and mid-sugar drinks, or can successfully use marketing to persuade consumers to switch to low sugar drinks.

The authors estimate that a reduction of 30% in the sugar content of all high-sugar drinks - a step already implemented by some manufacturers [3] - and a 15% reduction in mid-sugar drinks could result in 144000 fewer adults and children with obesity, 19000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes per year, and 269000 fewer teeth suffering from decay annually.

Passing on half of the cost of the levy to consumers leading to an increase in the price of high and mid-sugar drinks of up to 20% was estimated to reduce the number of adults and children with obesity by 81600, result in 10800 fewer cases of diabetes and 149000 fewer decaying teeth per year.

Children are likely to be benefit most, however the study also shows that the health benefits of the tax could be reduced if industry responds by increasing the price across their drinks range (including zero sugar/diet drinks, bottled water, and fruit juice) or if heavy marketing led consumers to switch from low to mid-sugar drinks.

Lead author of the study, Dr Adam Briggs, University of Oxford, UK, says "Our study provides the first estimates of the likely health impact of the UK soft drinks levy. The good news is that our study suggests that all of the most likely industry responses to the tax including reducing sugar content of soft drinks, raising prices of high-sugar drinks and increasing the market share of low-sugar drinks have the potential to improve health by reducing rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. The extent of the health benefits of the tax will depend on industry's response. We must therefore be vigilant to ensure the food industry acts to remove sugar from soft drinks, and that where the tax is passed on to consumers it increases the price of targeted products only - drinks with high levels of sugar." [4]

Professor Susan Jebb, co-author, University of Oxford, says "In spite of the uncertainties, the direction of the effect is clear; this levy will have a positive impact, especially on children's health. Of course, on its own a soft drinks levy cannot solve the obesity crisis, but we should not underestimate the importance of this step, both for the UK and as a case study for other parts of the world. Then, once this Bill is passed, we need to consider how to take effective action to reduce other sources of sugar in children's diets, notably confectionery, which has so far been relatively overlooked while hearts and minds have been focused on the soft drink levy." [4]

Professor Richard Tiffin, co-author, University of Reading, UK, adds: "Our study shows a modest but significant impact on health resulting from the imposition of the levy. Childhood obesity is a ticking time bomb and we must now turn our attention to other measures that will bring about the step change in diet that is necessary to truly tackle this issue. We need a much better understanding of the diverse and complex reasons people choose a poor diet." [4]

The researchers note that the most likely response from industry will involve a combination of the approaches outlined in the study, and although there is a high level of uncertainty in the estimates, the findings provide much needed evidence on the relative effects of different industry responses, and the possible magnitude of health outcomes. They add that the study did not look at the time lag between implementation and effect of the changes, but suggest that improvements in tooth decay would be seen first, followed by reduced rates of obesity and cases of type 2 diabetes.

Writing in a linked Comment, Dr Lennert Veerman, University of Queensland, Australia, says: "The analysis focuses on short-term impacts that directly relate to sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption, namely obesity, diabetes, and caries. These effects are most relevant to policy makers keen to show the effectiveness of their interventions... Future work can assess the impact of SSB taxes on chronic diseases that would materialise later in time, such as heart disease, stroke, low back pain, and osteoarthritis, which would further strengthen the case for the SSB tax. The health impact of the tax on sugared drinks proposed in the UK is likely to be substantial and considerably greater than Briggs and colleagues suggest."
-end-
NOTES TO EDITORS: The authors received no specific funding for this work.

[1] On Monday 5th December, the UK Government published draft legislation on the UK soft drinks industry levy. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/soft-drinks-industry-levy For a table of popular soft drinks, their current sugar concentrations and proposed tax bracket, see: http://press.thelancet.com/tax.docx The tax rates used in this research are 18p per litre for the lower tax bracket and 24p per litre for the higher tax bracket, as estimated by the Office for Budget Responsibility, and are subject to change in the 2017 budget http://cdn.budgetresponsibility.org.uk/March2016EFO.pdf

[2] Some companies have already announced significant programmes of reformulation, including Tesco and Lucozade-Ribena-Suntory https://www.tescoplc.com/news/news-releases/2016/tesco-reduces-sugar-content-in-all-own-brand-soft-drinks/

[3] The better case scenarios assumed a 30% drop in sugar content for high sugar drinks and 15% drop for mid-sugar drinks; an increase in the price of high and mid sugar drinks of 20%; and a shift from sales of high-sugar drinks towards low and mid sugar drinks. The worse case scenarios assumed a reduction in sugar content of only 5%; an increase in the price of all drinks (including fruit juice, bottled water and zero/diet drinks); and a shift in market share from low to mid-sugar drinks.

[4] Quotes direct from authors and cannot be found in the text of the Article.

IF YOU WISH TO PROVIDE A LINK FOR YOUR READERS, PLEASE USE THE FOLLOWING, WHICH WILL GO LIVE AT THE TIME THE EMBARGO LIFTS: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(16)30037-8/fulltext

The Lancet

Related Diabetes Articles:

The role of vitamin A in diabetes
There has been no known link between diabetes and vitamin A -- until now.
Can continuous glucose monitoring improve diabetes control in patients with type 1 diabetes who inject insulin
Two studies in the Jan. 24/31 issue of JAMA find that use of a sensor implanted under the skin that continuously monitors glucose levels resulted in improved levels in patients with type 1 diabetes who inject insulin multiple times a day, compared to conventional treatment.
Complications of type 2 diabetes affect quality of life, care can lead to diabetes burnout
T2D Lifestyle, a national survey by Health Union of more than 400 individuals experiencing type 2 diabetes (T2D), reveals that patients not only struggle with commonly understood complications, but also numerous lesser known ones that people do not associate with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes and obesity -- what do we really know?
Social and economic factors have led to a dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes and obesity around the world.
A better way to predict diabetes
An international team of researchers has discovered a simple, accurate new way to predict which women with gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes after delivery.
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology: Older Americans with diabetes living longer without disability, US study shows
Older Americans with diabetes born in the 1940s are living longer and with less disability performing day to day tasks than those born 10 years earlier, according to new research published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.
Reverse your diabetes -- and you can stay diabetes-free long-term
A new study from Newcastle University, UK, has shown that people who reverse their diabetes and then keep their weight down remain free of diabetes.
New cause of diabetes
Although insulin-producing cells are found in the endocrine tissue of the pancreas, a new mouse study suggests that abnormalities in the exocrine tissue could cause cell non-autonomous effects that promotes diabetes-like symptoms.
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology: Reducing sugar content in sugar-sweetened drinks by 40 percent over 5 years could prevent 1.5 million cases of overweight and obesity in the UK and 300,000 cases of diabetes
A new study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal suggests that reducing sugar content in sugar sweetened drinks (including fruit juices) in the UK by 40 percent over five years, without replacing them with any artificial sweeteners, could prevent 500,000 cases of overweight and 1 million cases of obesity, in turn preventing around 300,000 cases of type 2 diabetes, over two decades.
Breastfeeding lowers risk of type 2 diabetes following gestational diabetes
Women with gestational diabetes who consistently and continuously breastfeed from the time of giving birth are half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes within two years after delivery, according to a study from Kaiser Permanente published today in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Related Diabetes Reading:

The Diabetes Code: Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally
by Jason Fung (Author), Nina Teicholz (Foreword)

The End of Diabetes: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes
by Joel Fuhrman M.D. (Author)

Diabetes For Dummies
by Alan L. Rubin (Author)

Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs
by Neal Barnard (Author)

Bright Spots & Landmines: The Diabetes Guide I Wish Someone Had Handed Me
by Adam Brown (Author), Kelly L. Close (Foreword)

Mayo Clinic The Essential Diabetes Book
by Mayo Clinic (Author)

Diabetic Living Diabetes Meals by the Plate: 90 Low-Carb Meals to Mix & Match
by Diabetic Living Editors (Author)

Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars
by Richard K. Bernstein (Author)

The Complete Diabetes Cookbook: The Healthy Way to Eat the Foods You Love
by America's Test Kitchen (Editor), Dariush Mozaffarian M.D. (Editor)

American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes: The Ultimate Home Reference from the Diabetes Experts
by American Diabetes Association (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Where Joy Hides
When we focus so much on achievement and success, it's easy to lose sight of joy. This hour, TED speakers search for joy in unexpected places, and explain why it's crucial to a fulfilling life. Speakers include inventor Simone Giertz, designer Ingrid Fetell Lee, journalist David Baron, and musician Meklit Hadero.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#500 500th Episode
This week we turn 500! To celebrate, we're taking the opportunity to go off format, talk about the journey through 500 episodes, and answer questions from our lovely listeners. Join hosts Bethany Brookshire and Rachelle Saunders as we talk through the show's history, how we've grown and changed, and what we love about the Science for the People. Here's to 500 more episodes!