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Tax in the fight against diabetes

A study by University of North Carolina researchers indicates strongly that tax and pricing policies can be effective in controlling obesity and consequent chronic diseases such as diabetes.

02 May 2010

A study by University of North Carolina researchers indicates strongly that tax and pricing policies can be effective in controlling obesity and consequent chronic diseases such as diabetes.

The research team used data gained from more than 5,000 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study in the US.

When CARDIA started in 1985, the participants lived in only four cities.  Since then, they have moved out to 48 States. The researchers collected information on the average prices of fast food products (adjusted to 2006 levels) in the counties where they lived in those 48 States.

Their analysis of the prices showed that, when they rose, weight and diabetes risk fell. When the prices fell, consumption, weight and diabetes risk rose. For example, when the researchers analysed the participants’ diet, weight and insulin levels, they found that a 10% price rise meant an 11.5% decrease in calories from pizza and a 7.1% decrease in calories from soda.

Their study is reported in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Lead author Prof Barry Popkin said that the study indicated that taxes, particularly in the form of excise, would “represent the most effective way to reduce adult obesity that we have today”. Cigarette taxes had been found to have a much larger effect on teenage versus adult smoking, he said, and he would expect that fast food taxes on children and teenagers would have the same result.


Published: 02 May 2010