Higher taxes of up to 20% on sugar-sweetened beverages and on palm oil can significantly reduce India’s diabetes burden and number of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases in less than a decade.
Corroborating the health ministry’s long pending proposal for sugar tax, international researchers say 20% tax on sugary drinks can reduce prevalence of overweight and obesity by 3% and incidence of Type 2 diabetes by 1.6% in next 10 years.
This assumes significance given that diabetes burden has doubled in the last 10 years from 32 million to 63 million and is projected to grow to 101.2 million in the next 15 years.
The study suggests higher tax can avert at least 4 lakh cardiac deaths. Similarly , prevalence of obesity is also as high as 22% among adults as well as children in India.
Hypertension is also fast growing in India with a prevalence rate of 25.4% among adults. However, the study shows a higher tax of up to 20% in palm oil alone is projected to avert around 3,63000 deaths from myocardial infarctions and strokes over the period 2014-23 (1.3% reduction in cardiovascular deaths). Palm oil, consumed widely in low and middle in come countries, is high in saturated fat and causes a large increase in cholesterol concentrations.
“Strong regulatory framework is essential to ensure compliance. Taxes are mandatory in nature and are bound to impact sales. It is comparatively difficult to bring a change in people’s behavorial choices which can be influenced through awareness and information,” says Dr Anoop Misra, Chairman Fortis C-DOC.Misra is also one of the lead authors of the study.
Apart from higher taxes, researchers have also advocated for strengthening of health system capacity to deliver care for non-communicable diseases.