Feature Non-communicable Disease

The public health threat from sugary drinks in India

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g6216 (Published 21 October 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6216
  1. Soumyadeep Bhaumik, clinician-scientist and public health commentator, Kolkata, India
  1. soumyadeepbhaumik{at}rediffmail.com

India has announced a soda tax in efforts to reduce consumption, with the aim of curbing the rise in diseases such as obesity and diabetes, writes Soumyadeep Bhaumik

In February this year Anand Grover, the United Nations’ former special rapporteur on the right to health, held a consultation in Mumbai as part of the groundwork for his report on unhealthy foods, non-communicable disease, and the right to health. The report, submitted in April 2014 to the UN Human Rights Council, highlighted the need for fiscal policies, particularly higher taxes on sugar sweetened beverages, to control non-communicable disease in India.1

In July 2014 the government of India announced the introduction of an extra 5% excise tax on aerated sugary drinks.2 Higher taxes on sugar sweetened beverages are already used as a public health measure in some countries, including France and Mexico.

Empty calories and obesity

Sugar sweetened beverages are said to contain only “empty calories” because they provide little nutritional value. Multiple meta-analyses have shown a consistent, specific, and dose related association between the intake of sugar sweetened drinks and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.3 4 5 6 7 The association with type 2 diabetes exists among all age groups even after the results are adjusted for body mass index and total energy consumption.

In one European study adults who drank more than one can of sugary soda a day had a 22% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who drank less than one can a month.8 Analysis of the Framingham Heart Study found that adults who consumed at least one soft …

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