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Taxing Sodas Won't Spur Much Weight Loss, Study Says
Date:12/13/2010

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Taxing sodas and other sweetened drinks would result in only minimal weight loss, although the revenues generated could be used to promote obesity control programs, new research suggests.

Adding to a spate of recent studies examining the impact of soda taxes on obesity, researchers from Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Graduate Medical School looked at the impact of 20 percent and 40 percent taxes on sales of carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, which also included sports and fruit drinks, among different income groups.

Because these taxes would simply cause many consumers to switch to other calorie-laden drinks, however, even a 40 percent tax would cut only 12.5 daily calories out of the average diet and result in a 1.3 pound weight loss per person per year, researchers said.

A 20 percent tax would equate to a daily 6.9 calorie intake reduction, adding up to no more than 0.7 pounds lost per person per year, according to the statistical model developed by the researchers.

"The taxes proposed as a remedy are largely on the grounds of preventing obesity, and we wanted to see if this would hold true," said study author Eric Finkelstein, an associate professor of health services at Duke-NUS. "It's certainly a salient issue. I assumed the effects would be modest in weight loss, and they were."

"I believe that any single measure aimed at reducing weight is going [to be small]," Finkelstein added. "But combined with other measures, it's going to add up. If higher taxes get people to lose weight, then good."

As part of a growing movement to treat unhealthy foods as vices such as tobacco and liquor, several states in recent years have pushed to extend sales taxes to the purchase of soda and other sweetened beverages, which, like other groceries, are usually exempt from state sales taxes.

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