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People May Skip Soft Drinks Rather Than Pay More

When cost increased, consumption dropped, study found

FRIDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Boosting the price of regular soft drinks may reduce consumption and help lower levels of obesity and diabetes in the United States, a new study suggests.

Researchers examined what happened during a time period when the cafeteria at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston increased the price of regular soft drinks by 35 percent, compared with a time period when the hospital launched an educational campaign. The investigators also looked at a comparison site -- a nearby hospital -- that did not implement either intervention.

Soft drink sales decreased 26 percent when the price was increased, but the educational campaign on its own did not affect sales. When the price increase and educational campaign were combined, sales fell an additional 18 percent, the study authors found.

"Policymakers and public health advocates have proposed the taxation of regular soft drinks as a means to reduce the consumption of these products and raise revenue for public health purposes. Our results may have implications for these proposed policies," Dr. Jason Block, of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues wrote.

"Future research should test price increases on fruit juices and other sugary beverages and should examine several price levels to determine what price increase is most effective in reducing sugary beverages sales while maintaining revenue neutrality for a cafeteria or food establishment," the study authors concluded.

The study was released online June 17 in advance of publication in the August print issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the causes and consequences of obesity.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Public Health Association, news release, June 17, 2010

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