Penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks 'could prevent 100,000 cases of heart disease and save 26,000 lives in a decade'
Americans drink 13.8 billion gallons of sugary drinks every year. Experts say it's the leading source of excess calories
Taxable U.S scientists have urged the government to increase the cost of sugary drinks to discourage high consumption
Medical experts are calling for a tax to be imposed on sugary drinks to help tackle the obesity crisis affecting Western countries.
Scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, said applying such a levy on sweetened beverages would prevent nearly 100,000 cases of heart disease and 8,000 strokes over the next decade. They estimated this would save a total of 26,000 lives.
The study follows in the wake of a decision in France to impose a so-called 'cola tax' on sugary drinks in a bid to beat the country’s growing problem with obesity.
The UK has no such levy but David Cameron said the Coalition would consider following Denmark's example of taxing foods with higher saturated fat.
In the U.S, Americans drink 13.8 billion gallons of soda, fruit punch, sweet tea and sports drinks in a mass consumption of sugar that is fueling soaring obesity and diabetes rates.
Study leader Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo said the penny tax 'would also prevent 240,000 cases of diabetes per year.'
The move would raise 8.5billion ($13bn) in direct tax revenue and save the public 11bn ($17bn) in healthcare-related expenses.
'Our hope is that these types of numbers are useful for policy makers to weigh decisions,' Dr Bibbins-Domingo said.
Fizzy drinks are the number one source of added sugar and excess calories in the American diet.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed reducing the intake of these beverages as one of its chief obesity prevention strategies in 2009, and several states and cities, including California and New York City, are already considering such taxes.
The analysis by Dr Bibbins-Domingo and her colleagues is among the first study to generate concrete estimates of the health benefits and cost savings of such a tax.
They modeled these benefits by taking into account how many sodas and sugary beverages Americans drink every year and estimating how much less they would consume if a penny-per-ounce tax were imposed on these drinks.
Economists have estimated that such a tax would reduce consumption by 10 to 15 percent over a decade.
The team then modeled how this reduction would play out in terms of reducing the burdens of diabetes, heart disease and their associated healthcare costs.
The study appears in the January issue of the journal Health Affairs.