A 'sugar tax' that can be sweeter for your health

A sugar tax that can be sweeter for your health

Dubai - "The proposal to tax will definitely have some impact. At least, some people will not be able to buy it as frequently,"


Asma Ali Zain

Published: Fri 14 Oct 2016, 10:42 PM

Last updated: Sun 16 Oct 2016, 12:49 AM

Taxing sugary drinks might not affect the affluent in the UAE but will definitely discourage overconsumption of soft drinks by residents, according to health experts who say that many of those who consume these drinks 'are addicted to sugar.'
They also said that studies have proved that sugar is 'a kind of drug' that is more harmful to the body than fats.
Last week, a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggested that taxing sugary drinks could lower consumption and reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay - all of which are burdening the UAE's healthcare system currently.

UAE numbers
According to the 2015 World Health Statistics Report citing figures from 2014, in the UAE:
> Diabetes affects 19.1 per cent males and 17.6 per cent females
> High blood pressure affects 25.5 per cent males and 21.5 per cent females
> Prevalence of obesity is 33.8 per cent in males and 45.1 per cent in females
> Deaths due to non-commu-nicable diseases were 547
> Diabetes was the fourth leading cause of death in 2015 causing 3.8 per cent of all deaths
The report titled 'Fiscal Policies for Diet and Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs)' suggested that a 20 per cent increase in retail price of sugary drinks would result in proportional reductions in consumption of such products.
"The proposal to tax will definitely have some impact. At least, some people will not be able to buy it as frequently," said Dr Anita Das Gupta, chief clinical dietician, Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi.
According to statistics, the UAE has the fifth highest rate of fizzy drinks consumption in the world - higher than any other country outside the American continent. Estimates show that a UAE resident consume an average of 103 litres of soft drinks a year. An average adult consumes 3,000 calories per day. "Sugar is empty calories. The body does not get any nutrients when we consume soft drinks. Instead, over a period of time, the body becomes insulin-resistant and that's when we develop diabetes," she explained.
"Instead of drinking fruit juices and soft drinks, people should eat fresh fruits," she added.
According to Dr Anita, soft drinks should not be given to children since they can develop a sweet tooth which leads to cavities and obesity in the long run. "Habits develop from childhood, so parents should set an example."
Obesity on the rise
"Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes," said Dr Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO's Department for the Prevention of NCDs. "If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives. They can also cut healthcare costs and increase revenues to invest in health services."
In 2014, more than 1 in 3 (39 per cent) adults worldwide aged 18 years and older were overweight. Worldwide prevalence of obesity more than doubled between 1980 and 2014, with 11 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women (more than half a billion adults) being classified as obese.
Tom Prabhu from NAET, a Dubai-based holistic centre that treats addictions and allergies non-invasively, explains that soft drinks can cause intense damage to the body. "Cola addiction is also sugar addiction. Sugar intake in moderation is not a problem. But if you are always craving for sugar and if you are eating and thinking about it multiple times a day, then you might be having sugar addiction."
Soda pop culture
He explained that there is a 'soda pop culture' in the UAE where soft drinks are promoted in festivals. "Children in the UAE consume it a lot since it is a social thing."
A number of countries have taken fiscal measures to protect people from unhealthy products. Mexico has implemented an excise tax on non-alcoholic beverages with added sugar, and Hungary has imposed a tax on packaged products with high sugars, salt or caffeine levels.
Countries such as the Philippines, South Africa and the United Kingdom have also announced intentions to implement taxes on sugary drinks.

Do you know what's in a can of cola?
> A can of cola contains 14 teaspoons of sugar while by WHO standards, total sugar consumption in a day should be between 6 and 7 teaspoons. The sweetener may be either sucrose (table sugar), or high fructose corn syrup. High amounts of fructose stress the liver and cause weight gain.
> Sugar also provides a fertile breeding ground for bacteria and causes plaque in the mouth. It also causes obesity and children who drink soda are almost twice as likely to become obese.
> Sugar depletes the body of vitamins and minerals because the system requires abnormally high levels of nutrients to process the sugar. It also makes the system much more acidic. This forces the kidneys to work harder to eliminate wastes that cause disease.
Phosphoric acid
> The phosphorus in phosphoric acid binds to calcium, thus prevent-ing the body from absorbing it. This calcium deficit manifests in all bone tissue in the body, including in the mouth.
> Phosphoric acid also causes aluminium in the cans to leach into the liquid. When you drink cola, you are also guzzling a toxic heavy metal.
> Not all cola drinks contain caffeine, but many do. A 12-ounce can of cola can contain from 35 to 38mg of caffeine.
Artificial sweeteners
> Saccharin and aspartame have been rigorously studied for their safety. The damage to the liver, to the entire nervous system and brain, and to muscles is extensive and sometimes irreparable.

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