Are soda taxes worth it?

January 11, 2011 by  
Filed under OBESITY

America is overweight.  With people moving less and consuming more junk food and highly-sweetened beverages, a population with 26% overweight prevalance is not surprising.  As it is not easy to drive people to visit gyms or ride their bikes more often, making them consume less sugary beverages may be a measure against obesity and, at the same time, increase much needed revenues.

 A new study from the Duke National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, however, found that imposing 20 or 40% taxes on sweetened beverages  „would lead to only minimal weight loss among most people and would have no effect on weight among consumers in the highest and lowest income groups“.   

 The researchers used American database on beverage purchases from stores and household consumption and employed statistical techniques to come up how changes in prices affect buying habits.  They also calculated weight losses due to reduction of beverage consumption as a result of tax increase and weight gains due to brand switches.

 Their computations show that a 20% sales tax would generate $1.5 billion a year and a 40% tax, $25 billion a year, which, as another economist commented,  may be regressive as people from lower income groups pay a higher proportion of these taxes.  However, since generic beverages are much cheaper, low-income groups buy more of these brands.  The researchers stated that these groups would actually account only for „20 percent of total tax revenue whereas those in each of the two middle income and high income groups would contribute 25 and 30 percent of the total, respectively.“  This switching to cheaper sweetened beverages would generate a calorie reduction of 6.9 per day, which is just equivalent to 0.7 pounds a year per household member while a 40% tax would reduce calories of 12.5 a day amounting to 1.3 pounds a year.  These figures are not really significant.  However, according to Finkelstein, the study’s lead researcher, any strategy that fights  obesity should be considered however modest.  It should also be noted that the data considered were all based on purchases from stores.  Purchases from restaurants and vending machines were not included.  Who knows?  If sodas get unaffordable from school vending machines, kids would start drinking water and fruit juices, like it used to be.  Like it’s suppose to be.

 Note: This post was written by Joyce, a colleague covering for me during my stay in NZ. Thanks, Joyce!

What’s fast food got to do with your heart?

May 28, 2008 by  

“A double cheese burger, fries, and soda to go.” How many times do we repeat this phrase in a week? A month? A year?

But what has fast food got to do with Battling Heart and Stroke? A lot, actually. Because here we also tackle nutrition and diet and how they affect your heart and blood vessels.

We have heard it before. Fast food is not good for your health. But of course you would want proof! Specifics! What exactly happens when I gobble that burger and rinse it down with soda?

According to recent research article

“The highly processed, calorie-dense, nutrient-depleted diet favored in the current American culture frequently leads to exaggerated supraphysiological post-prandial spikes in blood glucose and lipids. This state, called post-prandial dysmetabolism, induces immediate oxidant stress, which increases in direct proportion to the increases in glucose and triglycerides after a meal”

In other words, Big Mac, Whopper or even pizza are high in calorie and low in nutrients. After eating these high popular meals, the sugar and fatty acid levels in our blood dramatically go up resulting in a state known as postprandial dysmetabolism. This state is characterized by our body`s inability to deal with the “sugar and fat rush”. The results are not-so-beneficial physiological changes that include oxidative stress, inflammation, and narrowing of the blood vessels. 


a diet high in minimally processed, high-fiber, plant-based foods …will markedly blunt the post-meal increase in glucose, triglycerides, and inflammation.”

Examples of such foodstuffs are vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. In addition,

lean protein, vinegar, fish oil, tea, cinnamon, calorie restriction, weight loss, exercise, and low-dose to moderate-dose alcohol each positively impact post-prandial dysmetabolism.” 

The normal fast food fare is definitely not good for our hearts. And if you think that diet soda minimizes the adverse effect of such a diet, think again.

In contrast, traditional Okinawan and Mediterranean diets are said to be heart-friendly and can prevent inflammation and lower cardiovascular risks. These so-called anti-inflammatory diets are highly recommended for the prevention of coronary artery disease and diabetes. I will go into more detail about heart-healthy diets in future posts. A couple of easy-to-follow healthy recipes are also coming.

But before you go out there today, think seriously about your body and what fast food can do to your and your heart.

Are you ready to order?


O’Keefe JH, Gheewala NM, O’Keefe JO, 2008. Dietary Strategies for Improving Post-Prandial Glucose, Lipids, Inflammation, and Cardiovascular Health. J Am Coll Cardiol, 2008; 51:249-255, doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2007.10.016

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.