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Cambridge University Science Magazine
Obesity is a national problem in the United Kingdom, which has some of the worst rates in Europe. In 2019-20 a record 21% of Year 6 children were classed as obese, while in the year previous the rate in adults was 28%, more than 1 in 4.

To help combat this problem, a tax on sugar in soft drinks was introduced, set at 24 or 18 pence per litre, depending on sugar content. While the volume of soft drinks purchased did not change between 2018 and 2019, the year following the introduction on the levy, a recent study found that the amount of sugar in those drinks was 30 g lower per household per week. This represents at 10% reduction in the amount of sugar purchased by households through soft drinks.

The research was led by a team from Cambridge’s Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR). Dr David Pell, the study’s first author, said, ‘A 10% drop in the amount of sugar purchased from soft drinks might sound modest, but… cutting out even a relatively small amount of sugar should have important impacts on the number of people with obesity and diabetes’.

This result represents a win for not only public health but also the beverage industry itself, since the volume of soft drinks sold did not change — a key consideration when looking for business support for new health policy. While obesity rates are still high, this research represents a step towards addressing major health issues, including the growing spectre of childhood obesity.

James Lee