UK soft drink taxes linked with decreased obesity in girls

Posted: 30 January 2023 | | No comments yet

A study has found there to be an eight percent reduction in obesity in girls coinciding with 2018 soft drinks industry levy.

sugary drinks

According to a study, the implementation of the two-tier 2018 soft drinks industry levy in the UK is associated with an eight percent obesity reduction in girls ages 10-11.

The author of the study claim that this reduction was most prevalent in those living in the “most deprived areas”.

Childhood obesity in the UK

In England, the UK Government has said that 9.9 percent of children in reception were living with obesity in the combined 3-year period 2018 to 2019, 2019 to 2020 and 2021 to 2022.

However, the study has cited that childhood obesity rates in England have risen in recent decades, with around 10 percent of 4-5 year old children and 20 percent of 10-11 year old children living with obesity in 2020.

Stating that there is “strong evidence” that consumption of sugar sweetened beverages increases the risk of obesity and other serious diseases, the study authors note that in April 2018, the UK soft drinks industry levy (SDIL) went into effect to incentivize soft drinks makers to reduce the sugar content of drinks.

Carrying out the investigation

Published in PLOS Medicine and written by Nina Rogers at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, the study used annual repeat cross-sectional data on more than one million children in state-maintained schools.

Students aged 4-5 and 10-11 were followed overtime between September 2013 and November 2019. In addition, the researchers compared the obesity levels 19 months following the SDIL with predicted obesity levels had the SDIL not happened, controlling for each child’s sex and the level of deprivation of their school area.

The results

Looking specifically at 10-11 year old girls, the researchers say there was an “absolute reduction” in the obesity rate of 1.6 percentage points (95 percent CI 1.1-2.1), amounting to an 8 percent relative reduction in obesity rates.

The study highlights that the greatest reductions were seen in girls in the most deprived quintiles, with an absolute reduction of 2.4 percentage points (95 percent CI 1.6-3.2) in obesity prevalence in the most deprived quintile.

Supermarkets serving fresh food lower childhood obesity rates

However, in 10-11 year old boys, there was reportedly no overall change in obesity rates, and no obvious pattern of changes in relation to deprivation, though a 1.6 percent (95 percent CI 0.7-2.5) absolute increase in obesity rate was observed in the least deprived quintile (this is equivalent to a 10.1 percent relative increase).

What’s more, in younger children, no overall associations were found between the SDIL and obesity levels.

Commenting on the findings of the study, the authors of the study said: “Our findings suggest that the UK SDIL led to positive health impacts in the form of reduced obesity levels in girls aged 10-11 years.”

Providing advice so that obesity rates can be reduced in the future, Rogers advised: “Further strategies are needed to reduce obesity prevalence in primary school children overall, and particularly in older boys and younger children.”

Rogers adds, “We’ve shown for the first time that the UK Soft drink industry levy is likely to have helped prevent thousands of children becoming obese each year.”

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