Tax it: WHO urges countries to raise prices on sugary drinks to prevent obesity

FILE - In this May 18, 2016 file photo, sodas and energy drinks are stacked and line the shelves in a grocery store in Springfield, Illinois. The World Health Organization, in a statement timed for World Obesity Day on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, has recommended that countries use tax policy to increase the price of sugary drinks like sodas, sport drinks and even 100-percent fruit juices as way to fight obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

The World Health Organization on Tuesday recommended that countries use tax policy to increase the price of sugary drinks like sodas, sport drinks and even 100 percent fruit juices as a way to fight obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. The U.N. health agency, in a statement timed for World Obesity Day, also cited "strong evidence" that subsidies to reduce prices for fresh fruits and vegetables can help improve diets. It said that tax policies that lead to a 20 percent increase in the retail prices of sugary drinks would result in a proportional reduction in consumption.

Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes.

Dr. Douglas Bettcher, who heads WHO's department for preventing noncommunicable diseases

The WHO's guidelines mean that people should reduce the amount of sugar to less than 10 percent of their daily energy intake — about 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of sugar for adults — but 5 percent is even better, the agency said. Its recommendations cover free sugars, such as glucose and fructose, and sucrose or table sugar added to processed foods and drinks.

When you drink, your appetite control is not active, so you tend to overconsume calories.

Francesco Branca, head of WHO's nutrition for health and development department
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Obesity in youth

An estimated 42 million children under age 5 were overweight or obese in 2015, said Dr. Francesco Branca. At least 3 in 5 adolescents in countries like Chile, Argentina and Algeria consume soft drinks daily, compared to between 20 to 40 percent in the U.S. and much of Europe.



Worldwide obesity

Obesity more than doubled worldwide between 1980 and 2014, with 11 percent of men and 15 percent of women classified as obese — more than 500 million people, the WHO said. At the same time, the number of people living with diabetes worldwide had quadrupled since 1980, from 108 million to 422 million in 2014.

World Obesity Day

World Obesity Day is observed globally on 11 October with the view of promoting practical solutions to end the global obesity crisis. It is organised by the World Obesity Federation, a non-profit body which is in official relations with the World Health Organisation and is a collaborating body on the Lancet Commission on Obesity.

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