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WHO urges countries to raise taxes on sugary drinks

WHO urges countries to raise taxes on sugary drinks

The agency says fiscal policies that push the retail price of sugary drinks up by at least 20 percent "would result in proportional reductions in consumption of such products".

World Health Organization guidelines issued in March 2015 said adults and children from the Americas to Western Europe and the Middle East need to roughly halve the amount of sugar they consume to lower risk of obesity and tooth decay.

"We are now in a place where we can say there is enough evidence to move on this and we encourage countries to implement effective tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to prevent obesity", Temo Waqanivalu, of WHO's department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Health Promotion, told a briefing. Says Dr. Douglas Bettcher in a news release, "If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives".

People who are obese have an increased risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. They also are more likely to develop certain types of cancer, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, renal cell cancer, esophageal adenocarcinoma, endometrial cancer, gallbladder cancer and thyroid cancer.

According to 2014 statistics, 39 percent of adults worldwide were considered overweight.

It is now estimated that approximately 42 million children under the age of 5 around the world are overweight, an increase of 11 million over the last 15 years. Nearly half (48%) of these children lived in Asia and 25% in Africa.

The WHO's nutrition director, Dr Francesco Branca, said "nutritionally, people don't need any sugar in their diet".

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World Health Organization has long said sugars should make up less than 10 percent of a person´s total daily energy intake, and now urges countries to lower the bar to five percent.

In the report, it also states that some groups, including those living on low incomes, young people and those who usually eat unhealthy food are the most responsive to changes in prices of drinks and food.

"Fiscal policies should be food and drinks for which safer alternatives exist", said the report.

Its findings are based on a meeting of global experts and a review of the available evidence.

A 20% increase in prices of these drinks lead to a consumption reduction of 20% and a 50% increase would reduce consumption by half, said WHO.

Predictably, the USA -based soft drinks industry's lobbying arm - whose members include Coca-Cola Co, Pepsico Inc and Red Bull - strongly disagreed with what it called "discriminatory taxation". Among poor people, the number of consumers decreased by 17 percent. Several countries and cities have already headed in that direction. Earlier this year the British government revealed its Childhood Obesity Plan includes a tax on sugary drinks and the South African governments is planning a similar levy, as is Ireland.

The WHO statement came ahead of the Word Obesity Day as a measure to combat this steadily increasing health problem.

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