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Sugar and Obesity Factsheet and links

Sugar Facts

New Zealand has one of the highest consumption rates of sugar in the western world.

The World Health Organisation guidelines recommend daily sugar intake of 6 teaspoons of sugar and for children 3 teaspoons of sugar per day. New Zealanders, on average per person consume about 54 kilograms of sugar per year – or 37 teaspoons of sugar per day.

Dental Association spokesperson Rob Beaglehole has argued that New Zealand has the third-highest consumption of sugar in the OECD and that the number one source of sugar for those aged 30 and under comes from sugary drinks.

A recent Taranaki based study found that the median intake of sugary drinks among children was 250 ml per day or three times the recommended daily limit. Maori children were found to be drinking double the median amount of non-Maori.

Sugar is a highly addictive substance - it is in fact more addictive than cocaine as demonstrated in a French Study.

Obesity Facts

New Zealand has the third highest rate of overweight and obese adults in the OECD.

Refined high-energy food, such as those with added sugar, contributes to increased body weight. The Royal Society

In 1977 the rate of obesity in New Zealand was 10%. In 2013 the New Zealand obesity rate was 31%, with a further 35% overweight.

The burden of obesity in New Zealand falls disproportionately on Maori and Pacific Island populations, socio-economically disadvantaged populations, and those living in areas of high deprivation. 68% of Pacific adults and 48% of Maori adults are obese. Treasury

In 2013, obesity among New Zealand children reached 11% with a further 21% of children classified as overweight. Childhood obesity continues to rise. The NZ health survey

Obesity is a major public health concern because it is a key risk factor in a range of chronic diseases e.g. type 2 diabetes. In addition, obesity, can cause debilitating conditions and psychological problems such as infertility, clinical depression and osteoarthritis.

A 2010 OECD report cited an estimate that an obese person has health care costs around 30 percent higher than someone of a normal weight.

Evidence for a sugar Tax

The 2014 Treasury report: Options for regulatory responses to the growing obesity problem - revised recommended a systemic, sustained portfolio of initiatives, both government and non-government, delivered at scale, to address the health burden associated with obesity.

Seventeen countries now have sugary drinks taxes.

The report: WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity recommended a tax on sugary drinks as its number 2 recommendation.

Public Health England conducted a thorough evidence review in 2015 and as a result Cabinet made a commitment to serious action on childhood obesity and implemented a sugar sweetened beverage tax.

A recent study has found that Mexico’s 10 percent tax on sugary drinks is set to save almost 19 thousand lives and save its health system nearly a billion dollars over the next decade.

One of the study’s authors talked to Kathryn Ryan on Radio New Zealand recently about the significance of the results.

The recent New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) policy briefing, Tackling Obesity recommends a sugar-sweetened beverages tax, marketing regulation, front of pack labelling and licensing of fast food premises.

74 New Zealand Public Health Professors have signed an open letter to the government recommending that such taxes should be part of a comprehensive approach to reduce childhood obesity.

There is majority public support for a sugary drinks tax in New Zealand (over 80% in a Herald Poll).

A sugary drinks tax in NZ would be expected to raise $30-$40 million which could be used to boost funding for obesity prevention programs.

A report by the Grattan Institute in Australia recently recommended that the government introduce a tax on sugary drinks to recoup some of the costs of obesity to the community.

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