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March 9, 2010

Study: Junk food tax could make us healthier

With cities such as New York and Philadelphia considering taxing sugary sodas to fill budget gaps, new research makes the case that the idea could actually improve health.

As the cost of soda and pizza increases, adults eat less of the bad stuff, bringing down their weight, according to the study appearing in the latest Archives of Internal Medicine

It's not the first medical study to conclude a soda tax could cut obesity. This one studied the eating habits of some 5,115 adults over more than 20 years to find out the impact of increasing prices of junk food on their health.

The conclusions: an 18 percent tax on pizza and soda could result in a decrease of nearly 56 calories per person per day. That could mean the loss of 5 lbs per person per year and a reduction of obesity-related diseases, the authors write. 

It's a persuasive argument, especially considering that the price of soda has decreased over two decades while the price of milk has increased, the authors note. Meanwhile, the obesity epidemic has soared.

An accompanying editorial draws parallels with the tobacco industry, suggesting that the money gained from taxing soda and junk food could help fund healthy eating campaigns and even promote the benefits of regular ol (not to mention, free) tap water.

Still, the study has some limitations and there are many foes of taxing sodas and junk food. 

The authors suggest the study would be stronger if it focused on more kinds of food. And of course, there could be other reasons for the modest lost in weight, notably the people chosen to participate in the study could be more motivated than the rest of us grease-and-sugar-loving Americans. 

That said, the editorial by Dr. Mitchell H. Katz and Dr. Rajiv Bahatia of the San Francisco Department of Public Health makes the case that a sin tax on bad food isn't out of the realm of possibility in a country that offers food subsidies for things like corn. 

Besides adding surcharges to unhealthful foods, we should also consider the more positive side of the coin, food subsidies. Sadly, we are currently subsidizing the wrong things including the production of corn, which makes the corn syrup in sweetened beverages so inexpensive.  Evidence suggests that lowering the price of fruits and vegetables would increase their consumption among youth. Therefore, our agricultural subsidies should be used to make healthful foods such as locally grown vegetables, fruits, and whole grains less expensive.

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Posted by Kelly Brewington at 12:26 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Diet and exercise
        

Comments

that really does not make sense!!!!!!!!! raise the cost of junk food!!?? your going to put these companys out of buisness!!! what the heck is wrong with this country??????????????????????. i understand it makes people obese, but let these people live!!! if thats how they want to live let them. what is wrong with pizza?? its all 4 food groups,meat,cheese,tomato sauce,bread(crust) what a country!!

And all the state taxes have stopped people from smoking? Get a grip, this is ignorance at it's best. Read the first paragraph, you wrote Kelly. This is another avenue to tax the general public to close the budget gaps as opposed to practicing fiscal responsibility.Making us heathier is a marketing gimmick to approve another tax, surely you see that. Live a healthier life by simply making the right choices such as working out. We shouldn't be subsidizing corn or any other crop period. How about more education on eating properly, not being able to use food stamps to purchase junk food, and encouraging people to workout. No added cost to the already overburdened taxpayer.

HOLD ON THERE PAUL. I TOO AM A CAPITALIST AND STRONG ADVOCATE OF INDIVIDUAL FREEDOMS. FOLKS SHOULD BE FREE TO ENGAGE IN BEHAVIORS OF THEIR OWN CHOOSING, SO LONG AS THEY DO NOT INFRINGE UPON OTHERS RIGHTS TO DO THE SAME. PROBLEM HERE IS THAT IN THIS COUNTRY, WE DO NOT LET PEOPLE GO WITHOUT HEALTH CARE AND DIE. RATHER, WE ALL, ALBEIT INDIRECTLY, FOOT THE COST FOR THE INCREASED HEALTH CARE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH A POOR DIET THAT LEADS TO 2/3 OF THIS COUNTRY BEING OVERWEIGHT. ELIMINATE THE DISEASES OF INFLUENCE PROMPTED BY OUR WESTERN DIET AND OUR HEALTH CARE CRISIS CEASES TO EXIST. CHECK OUT THE CHINA STUDY BY COLIN CAMPBELL AND LEARN THE TRUTH ABOUT DIET AND NUTRITION THAT OUR GOVERNMENT HAS INADVERTENTLY HID FROM US FOR A CENTURY.

Attention nannies: stop trying to dictate how we live our lives.

All this does is punish people that have what is called self-control...I love pizza, but I know not to eat the entire thing. I know that if super-size me McDonald's meal every time I am going to put on weight so I dont. But now because people can't control themselves or their kids I am going to be punished...that's just great

So the government gives tax dollars in subsidies to corn growers, which leads to a market flooded with cheap junk food, which in turn now has to be taxed to discourage its excess consumption.

This doesn't surprise me, but I think it can be attributed to more than people spending savings on junk food. I know after filling my basket with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, I am much more likely to throw in a chocolate bar (organic and fair trade, of course). I wonder if they considered this in their findings?

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About Picture of Health
Meredith CohnMeredith Cohn has been a reporter since 1991, covering everything from politics and airlines to the environment and medicine. A runner since junior high and a particular eater for almost as long, she tries to keep up on health and fitness trends. Her aim is to bring you the latest news and information from the local and national medical and wellness communities.

Andrea K. WalkerAndrea K. Walker knows it’s weird to some people, but she has a fascination with fitness, diseases, medicine and other health-related topics. She subscribes to a variety of health and fitness magazines and becomes easily engrossed in the latest research in health and science. An exercise fanatic, she’s probably tried just about every fitness activity there is. Her favorites are running, yoga and kickboxing. So it is probably fitting that she has been assigned to cover the business of healthcare and to become a regular contributor to this blog. Andrea has been at The Sun for nearly 10 years, covering manufacturing, retail , airlines and small and minority business. She looks forward to telling readers about the latest health news.
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