Sugar tax ‘prevents 5,000 cases of obesity in year six girls each year’

Sugar tax in the UK prevents 5,000 cases of obesity in year 6 girls each year, says research

Sugar tax in the UK prevents more than 5,000 cases of obesity among year six girls, according to new research.

Health leaders at the University of Cambridge looked at the impact of the sugar tax and its impact on tackling childhood obesity.

Also known as the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, it was introduced in 2018 and raises around £300 million a year.

It has resulted in sugar cuts of up to 30% in certain soft drinks.

Published in PLOS Medicine, the study analysed the impact of the levy on reception-age children, as well as those in year six around 19 months after the tax came into force.

In England, childhood obesity rates in 2020 were around 10% of reception age children and 20% of children in year six.

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Obesity cases reduced

The data found that the introduction of the sugar tax had an effect on older girls’ obesity levels. Findings suggested an 8% drop in obesity in year six – preventing more than 5,000 cases of obesity a year in this age group.

In addition, reductions were highest (9%) among girls who attended schools in deprived areas.

However, no measurable effect of the sugar tax on obesity levels was found among year six boys. The researchers suggested a number of reasons for this including:

  • Boys are more susceptible to advertising by food firms
  • Boys are more likely to believe energy-dense foods will boost athletic performance
  • Girls are more likely than boys to make healthier food and drink choices.

First author Dr Nina Rogers, from the Medical Research Council epidemiology unit at Cambridge University, and first author on the study, said: ‘We urgently need to find ways to tackle the increasing numbers of children living with obesity, otherwise we risk our children growing up to face significant health problems.

‘That was one reason why the UK’s soft drinks industry levy was introduced and the evidence so far is promising.’

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