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Is The End Of Fizzy Drinks In Sight?

Back in the 80s and 90s, the fizzy drinks industry reached its peak when companies like Coca-Cola began pushing larger drink sizes and "upsizing." As people bought into the 'super-size culture', rates of obesity and diabetes soared and even though the industry still denies any connection with these diseases, mounting research suggests otherwise.

Thankfully, in recent years, it seems that the tide is lowly starting to turn against fizzy and diet fizzy drinks with the latest numbers showing that as much as 63 per cent of all Americans are now avoiding fizzy drinks.

Cracking down on the fizz

Today, the fizzy drinks industry is worth $75-billion, in the US alone. However, according to an article, recently published in Businessweek, sales of fizzy drinks started dropping in 2005... and it's been a slow downward spiral ever since. This is largely due to Joe Public being more informed about the health risks associated with sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks.

'Diet' or 'zero sugar' fizzy drinks aren't faring too well either, as consumers now realise that diet fizzy drinks are anything but a 'healthier alternative'. As a result, Businessweek reported that while fizzy drink sales dropped 2 per cent in 2013, diet fizzy drink sales dropped 7 per cent. Clearly, consumers are catching on to the risks involved with consuming aspartame — the toxic artificial sweetener used in diet fizzy drinks that has been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

However, Coca-Cola maintains that aspartame is a "safe,
high-quality alternative to sugar" as they stubbornly ignore research that has shown that artificially sweetened no- or low-calorie drinks and other "diet" foods actually stimulate your appetite, increase cravings for carbohydrates, and encourage fat storage and weight gain...

In fact, a study published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism showed that consumers of diet fizzy drinks suffer the same health problems as those who drink regular fizzy drinks, like excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

While the drop in fizzy and diet fizzy drinks sales gives some reassurance that people are beginning to take more personal responsibility in terms of making healthier choices, these drinks are far from disappearing from our shelves... However, judging by the results of a recent South African study they might be subjected to much heavier taxation in the near future.

Researchers at the University of Witwatersrand measured the impact of a 20 per cent tax on fizzy drinks on the prevalence of obesity in adults. The researchers used data from a 2003 South African Demographic and Health Survey as well as the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which showed that in less than a decade, obesity had risen from 8.8 per cent to 10.6 per cent in men, and from 27.4 per cent to 39.2 per cent in women.

By using a mathematical simulation model, the researchers showed that by introducing a 20 per cent 'sugar tax', there was a predicted reduction of 36 kilojoules intake a day, resulting in a 3.8 per cent reduction in obesity in men and 2.4 per cent reduction in obesity in women. This translates to a reduction of more than 220,000 obesity cases among adults.

A similar 'sugar tax' has already been heavily debated in the UK, with many experts doubting its effectiveness and fizzy drink manufacturers kicking their heals in arguing against the findings of similar studies.

However, since the researchers also found that drinking just one sugar-sweetened fizzy drink a day increased the likelihood of being overweight by 27 per cent for adults and 55 per cent for children, reducing obesity levels among nearly a quarter of a million adults should not be frowned upon.

Around 65 per cent of people in England are now overweight or obese. The UK's National Health Service (NHS) already spends an estimated £5.1billion a year treating obesity-related illnesses. One in 10 of all knee replacement operations in England and Wales are now carried out as a direct result of obesity — double the proportion seen just four years ago... Recently, in the largest study of its kind, experts have warned that overweight and obese people are at an increased risk of 10 of the commonest cancers.

It's very obvious that the obesity crisis should be taken a lot more seriously. Introducing a 'sugar tax' for sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks may be one way of helping to tackle the growing global obesity and diabetes epidemic

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