Increasing the cost of sugary snacks could be more effective at tackling obesity than the tax on sugary drinks, researchers believe.
A new study – published in the British Medical Journal – found that a reduction in the consumption in high-sugar snacks, has a better chance at improving people’s health compared to taxing fizzy drinks.
A 20% tax on sugary snacks like cake, biscuits and chocolate could reduce a person’s calorie intake by 8,900 calories over the course of a year.
This could amount to an average weight loss of 1.3kg.
In contrast, a similar price increase on sugary drinks would result in an average weight loss of just 203 grams.
The study, which was carried out in a UK context, concludes that increasing the price of high sugar snacks “could reduce energy intake, BMI, and prevalence of obesity”.
In their conclusions, the authors state: “Taxation strategies to lower sugar and energy intake have focused on sugar sweetened beverages; in the UK, high sugar snacks, such as confectionery, make a more substantial contribution to intakes of free sugars and energy than do sugar sweetened beverages.
“Our study suggests that a 20% price increase in high sugar snacks has the potential to reduce overall energy purchased among all body mass index and income groups in the UK, leading to an estimated population level reduction in obesity prevalence of 2.7 percentage points after the first year.”
They add: “The results of this study also suggest that price increases in high sugar snacks could also make an important contribution to reducing health inequalities driven by diet related disease.”
Reacting to the findings, director of the Weight Management Clinic Donal O’Shea said taxing snacks could be a tough measure to introduce.
He argued: “It would be trickier when you get into solid snacks, because they do have some minimal nutritional content… whereas the sugar sweetened drinks have practically zero nutritional value.
“I think it’s a very positive finding, that would be challenging to implement.”
The findings of the study come over a year after Ireland introduced a tax on sweetened drinks.