RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Sugar taxes seem all over the news lately, as cash-strapped cities and states try to figure out how to get more money. And a new study from the American Journal of Public Health suggests that they actually do get people to drink healthier beverages. Whether you agree with the idea of a sugar tax or not, everyone craves a soda now and then. So we dug up a few healthy soda alternatives that may get the surliest of politicians to change their tune.
THE DETAILS: The beverage choices researchers tested their theory in the cafeteria of Brigham and Women's Hospital during a five-phase study. Phase 1 was a baseline period in which the prices of all regular sodas, fruit juices, sugary waters, and regular bottled water were posted, and Phase 2 included a price increase of 45 cents on the soft drinks but not the water. During Phase 3 the prices went back to normal. In Phase 4, the authors posted educational items informing people that they could lose up to 25 pounds in a year by skipping one soda per day and switching to diet soda or water, and in Phase 5, the educational literature remained posted and the prices of the regular soft drinks were increased again by 45 cents.
They found that during Phase 2, the sales of regular, high-calorie drinks dropped by 26 percent, while the sales of diet drinks increased by 20 percent. The educational campaigns in Phase 4 didn't influence drink sales at all, but when they were combined with the price increase in Phase 5, sales of regular drinks fell by 36 percent, and the sales of diet drinks increased by 14 percent.
WHAT IT MEANS: This study shows that sugar taxes, while unpopular, may actually work in getting people to switch to healthier alternatives. And many sodas are, the authors point out, pretty unhealthy stuff. Adults can consume 230 calories per day from sodas, and research conducted as part of the Nurse's Health Study found that drinking a single soda every day of the week added 10 pounds over a four-year period and increased the risk of developing diabetes by 83 percent. Another British study looking at daily soda consumption linked it to an increased risk of heart disease. Other studies have found that drinking just a half a can per day can increase your risk of overweight or obesity by 26 percent. Diet soda isn't much better, as it can increase your preference for other sugary foods and make you crave high-calorie cereals, breads, and desserts. Other research suggests that people overcompensate for the calories they're not getting in soda and consume more high-calorie foods, putting them at risk for obesity and diabetes.
Published on: June 22, 2010
Updated on: June 23, 2010