Finance minister proposes ‘sugar tax’ to halt obesity

2016-05-04 06:00

SOUTH Africa has the highest rate of obesity in sub-Saharan African and does not rate much better in world obesity.

To assist in reducing obesity the South African Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, proposed the introduction of a "sugar tax" in 2017, in his budget last February. This will apply to sugar-sweetened beverages.

New mathematical modelling by University of Witwatersrand researchers suggests that a 20% "soda tax" could save the country R10 billion over the next 20 years in costs related to treating rising cases of Type 2 diabetes largely caused by poor diet and rising obesity rates.

Already the third underlying cause of natural death, diabetes is expected to cost South Africa as much as R2 billion per year by the year 2030 in costs such as hospitalisations and medication, according to a 2010 study conducted by Wits' Priority Cost Effective­ Lessons for System Strengthening South Africa (Priceless SA) unit, additional modelling presented recently also found that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could also prevent obesity in about 280 000 young adults.

In a 2012 Coca-Cola survey, South Africa was among the top 10 consumers per capita of the beverage giant's products.
Mexico ranked highest consumer of Coca-Cola products.

To curb soda consumption, Mexico instituted a sugary beverages tax in 2014 and within a year, there had been a 12% reduction in the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages.

According to the SA National Health and Nutrition examination survey published last year, the average South African now consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar and similar sweeteners a day.

So it's come as no surprise that earlier this year, the World Health Organisation proposed an update of its guidelines around sugar consumption that would limit sugar to less than five percent of total energy intake - or six teaspoons - per day.

"These are the same brain patterns you see during drug addiction." A recent study suggests that sugary biscuits could be as addictive as cocaine or morphine.

"Most people are sugar overeaters but don't know it," says Dr Nicole Avena. That's because some "healthy" foods are loaded with hidden added sugar.
The proposed WHO guidelines include all added sugar - that is, any sugar that doesn't occur naturally, e.g. in fruit - and would include the hidden variety, calling manufacturers to account.

If you feel all right, your brain is probably not misfiring, though that's no excuse to up your sugar intake.
Remember - addictive or not, too much added sugar remains a health hazard.

According to the SA National Health and Nutrition examination survey published last year, the average South African now consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar and similar sweeteners a day


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