Parts of the USA have a sugar tax and in 2018, one will come into effect in the United Kingdom.
But here's the problem: a sugar tax completely misses the forest through the trees and will NOT solve our obesity issues.
1. Sugar Doesn't Make You Fat
It's all about CALORIES. An insulin spike DOES NOT cause fat gains in the absence of a calorie surplus (1). In other words, you have to eat/drink more calories than you burn to gain fat, there's no food/drink in the WORLD that stores fat DIRECTLY.
If sugar made us fat DIRECTLY - we could solve world hunger by delivering soft drinks to certain countries. Think about it.
Protein spikes insulin too (2), and whey protein can spike insulin more than white bread (3).
So by the notion of this tax, which is nothing more than a cash grab - they better start taxing protein too!
FACT: Spiking insulin does NOT lead to fat gains.
Moreover, subjects can eat 43% of their daily calories from sugar and still lose THE IDENTICAL AMOUNT OF FAT as those who consumed just 4% of their daily calories from sugar (4). Now of course this much sugar isn't recommended, it was just set up for the sake of science.
It's not sugar that causes fat gain, it's the calories, which leads us into:
2. A Calorie Surplus Make You Fat - NOT Sugar
We may as well start taxing high calorie foods too - because it's a calorie surplus that causes obesity which can in turn lead to diabetes.
In a can of Coke there's 164 calories which is 41 grams of sugar. Now it's actually quite low calorie to be honest - there's more calories in 2 slices of bread.
But what about in a Mars Bar? Well, it contains 260 calories. So that's 100 calories more than the soft drink.
Why? Well because it contains fat too - which is much more calorie dense than sugar - just over twice the amount to be precise. Yet for some reason I can't work out - they want to blame sugary drinks and not look at the big picture.
3. It Lets Laziness Off The Hook
By taxing sugary drinks and blaming it for obesity, it can make people believe that exercise isn't that important and it's really just the sugar and drinks that are responsible for their decline in health.
People need to take responsibility.
Enjoy foods in moderation (including sugary soft drinks) but for heavens sake - EXERCISE!
4. "Sugar Makes You Hungrier" Is Largely A Myth
Sugar doesn't make you want to eat more in real world scenarios. Sugar in fact DOES induce satiety in us (5-8).
So this notion that it makes us want to splurge on everything in sight isn't solidly supported by science.
Take into consideration we have a can of Coke with lunch that makes us full, and reality hits home quite quickly. But even a can of Coke on its own doesn't wreak the havoc many try to sell us.
5. Creating A Fear Of Sugar Creates Unhealthy Relationships With Food
If a sugar tax comes into place, people will see it as "oh, so sugar must be to blame."
That could make people cut it out of their diets, and can create an unhealthy relationship with food. This is where eating disorders begin.
Sugar is not good or bad, it's just indifferent.
But here's the most important part - research shows that those who essentially sentence themselves to food prison with their "clean eating for life" (no sugar and no treats) find it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight (9,10,11).
Also, those who allow for sugar and other treats in moderation - a flexible approach to eating - report less depression, less anxiety, less fat and no overeating (12,13).
A sugar tax banks on you not doing your research, insulting your knowledge on how to stay lean and healthy, and grabbing you and I's money.
"Stay Fit, Stay Flexed!"
(1) Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, Smith SR, Ryan DH, Anton SD, McManus K, Champagne CM, Bishio LM, Laranjo N, Leboff MS, Roos JC, de Jonge L, Greenway FL, Loria CM, Obarzanek E, Williamson DA. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Eng J Med. 2009 Feb 26;360(9):859-73. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0804748.
(2) Holt, S.H., Miller, J.C., & Petocz, P. (1997). An insulin index of foods: the insulin demand generated by 1000-kJ portions of common foods. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 66, 1264-1276
(3) Salehi A, Gunnerud U, Muhammed SJ, Ostman E, Holst JJ, Björck I, Rorsman P. The insulinogenic effect of whey protein is partially mediated by a direct effect of amino acids and GIP on beta-cells. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 May 30;9(1):48.
(4) Surwit RS, Feinglos MN, McCaskill CC, et al. Metabolic and behavioral effects of a high-sucrose diet during weight loss. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;65(4):908–915.
(5) Pliquett RU, Fuhrer D, Falk S, Zysset S, von Cramon DY, Stumvoll M. The effects of insulin on the central nervous system - focus on appetite regulation. Horm Metab Res. 2006 Jul;38(7):442-6.
(6) Melanson KJ, Angelopoulos TJ, Nguyen V, Zukley L, lowndes J, Rippe JM. High-fructose corn syrup, energy intake, and appetite regulation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Dec;88(6):1738S-1744S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.25825E.
(7) Soenen S, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. No differences in satiety or energy intake after high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, or milk preloads. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1586-94.
(8) Monsivais P, Perrigue MM, Drewnowski A. Sugars and satiety: does the type of sweetener make a difference? Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jul;86(1):116-23.
(9) Meule A, Westenhofer J, Kubler A. Food cravings mediate the relationship between rigid, but not flexible control of eating behavior and dieting success. Appetite. 2011;57(3):582–584. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.07.013.
(10) Meule A, Papies EK, Kubler A. Differentiating between successful and unsuccessful dieters. Validity and reliability of the Perceived Self-Regulatory Success in Dieting Scale. Appetite. 2012;58(3):822–826. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2012.01.028.
(11) Stewart TM, Williamson DA, White MA. Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women. Appetite. 2002;38(1):39–44.
(12) Smith CF, et al. Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. Appetite. 1999 Jun;32(3):295-305.
(13) Stewart TM, et al. Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women. Appetite. 2002 Feb;38(1):39-44.