University of Waterloo Study Suggests a Sugar Tax Would Reduce Consumption

Glucometer with sugar level, healthy food, dumbbells and centimeter, diabetes, healthy and sporty lifestyle

The University of Waterloo, Canada reviewed the buying behavior of more than 3,500 Canadians when it came to drinks and snacks. The net takeaway: 20% tax increase on high-sugar-based products would lead participants to buy food and drinks with 20% less sugar and 20% fewer calories. A sugar tax on unhealthy drinks could bring about behavioral change.

Other Findings:

  •         Those that review nutritional labels tend to consume at least 20% less sugar in their food products
  •         Individuals would like to eat healthier and they would also like to save money
  •         Simultaneously Ottawa officials emphasized they have no intention on considering a sugar tax although they could consider labeling changes
  •         Canada’s Growing Weight Problem according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada
  •         In 2017 64% of Canadians were technically overweight to obese
  •         This is up from 49% in 1979

Overweight and Obesity Challenges

As we have discussed Ad nauseam in the TrialSite News channel overweight to obesity-culture leads to extremely costly public health crisis’—from type 2 diabetes crisis’ to heart disease, cancers to the emerging NASH crisis. Canada’s big neighbor to the south knowns all too well the ramifications—30 million or so alone on diabetes medication. 

In the United States when we factor that social determinant of health issues drive health issues and that we can correlate obesity and related co-morbidities with social factors (e.g. income, ethnicity, education, etc.) and factor in 70 million on just one form of socialized medicine we have in the States (Medicaid) we are externalizing the costs of bad behavior to the public—to the taxpayer. Isn’t it time to consider the taxpayer and ways to relieve us?

Processed Sugar is a Big Problem

This author loves the occasional coke and candy bar but the word occasional is emphasized. For those that want to eat those every day, it is time that the taxpayers get some help and reallocate some of that cost back on to those consumers.

There is a growing body of medical and clinical research that we’ll have to do something. One study shows that in the U.S. consumption of sugar-rich soft drinks has increased five-fold since the 1950s and the data suggests that sugar-sweetened beverages are related to the risk of diabetes, the metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. Moreover drinking two 16 ounce sugar-sweetened drinks per day for 6 months induced features of the metabolic syndrome and fatty liver.

Additionally, randomized controlled studies with children and adults lasting 6 months to 2 years reveal that lowering the intake of soft drinks reduced weight gain. Also, recent studies lead to gene-sugar-sweetened drink relationship. The net takeaway: consumption of calorie-sweetened beverages is a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic. 

Back to the Canadian Study

Based on this press release from earlier this year the author David Hammond wonders why the Canadian government refuses to tax sugary drinks and emphasizes taxes and proper labeling will be key to turn this crisis around. The research team looked at other countries and found that taxes and labeling have changed consumer and industry behavior in both Chile and the United Kingdom which apparently taxes drinks based on the amount of sugar content and includes a voluntary labeling program.

It is apparently the case that labeling changes behavior


TrialSite News will have to separately verify some of the claims including the real impact of sugar tax impacts on consumption behavior in both Chile and the UK. But we have done enough homework to be able to make the claim that the excessive amounts of processed sugars in our drinks and diet are undoubtedly contributing to overweight and obesity trends. These trends, unfortunately, have a profoundly unfortunate impact on our health. As taxpayers, we help pay the bill for 70 million on Medicaid and about 60 million for Medicare totaling about 130 million on public (e.g. socialized) medicine. 

Of course in private insurance models, we pay increasing premiums to cover the risks in that model as well. But the public models are supported by taxes. Food for thought.

Lead Research/Investigator

David Hammond, public health professor and lead author of the study published in the Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity