“Big Beverage” Challenges Latest Diabetes Report

150512-diabetesbloodtest-stock.jpgGood news? Or not? The International Council of Beverages Association (I.C.B.A.) has responded to a World Health Organization (W.H.O.) release of its first-ever "Global report on diabetes." ICBA...

supports WHO's effort to meaningfully address the global burden of diabetes and many of the general policy recommendations."

Sounds good, but ICBA then turns its back on some of W.H.O.’s solutions, saying the…

recommendation of fiscal policies such as taxation of certain foods and beverages is misguided and not supported by the evidence to date."

What about the “evidence to date?”  We think it’s pretty compelling. W.H.O. highlights Mexico's “soda tax” launched in January, 2014, as a potentially effective policy. Mexico has both the highest prevalence of diabetes among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries and the highest per capita consumption of soft drinks worldwide. The nationwide taxon drinks containing added sugars has been an eye-opener:

While it is too early to draw far-reaching conclusions, one analysis estimated that the 10% increase in the price of added-sugar drinks was associated with an 11.6% decrease in the quantity consumed," the report notes.

Read the WHO diabetes report here.

ICBA counters:

In Mexico, data from two studies on a tax implemented in 2014 found that the tax led to a per-person reduction of about 6 calories in an average daily diet of 3,024 calories. The tax has not demonstrated any reduction in body-mass index or shown measurable improvement in the health of an average Mexican as promised by its proponents. Taxation is not the answer to the very serious health challenge of diabetes."=

The Grocery Manufacturers Association responded in similar fashion to the W.H.O. report, both noting several of the industry's own successful efforts at combating obesity and criticizing Mexico's tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

A selective taxation on one class of food or beverage is arbitrary, discriminatory, regressive and inefficient and will have little or no impact in helping consumers make informed decisions about diet and health," a GMA spokesperson said. "Selective food taxes disproportionately affect households with lower incomes because a larger percentage of their income goes toward food purchases."

Who to believe? As we often do, we invoke the opinion of Michael Jacobson, president of the independent, non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest, who responded to WHO's diabetes report Wednesday by pointing to the study C.S.P.I. released in February. It showed how Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were "borrowing a page from the tobacco industry playbook and investing heavily to boost consumption in low- and middle-income countries." That report is here.

The soda wars rage on! One thing is certain: Type 2 diabetes has already devastated the lives of millions, and millions more are still playing roulette with their guzzle-it, sugar-rich eating habits.

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