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The results are out, and the findings are frightening!

Stats SA have recently released their report on mortality and causes of death in 2016. Whilst tuberculosis remains the leading cause of death in 2016, non communicable diseases (or lifestyle related diseases) accounted for 57.4% of deaths in 2016. Diabetes Mellitus specifically was the second leading cause of death, followed by other forms of heart disease and cerebrovascular diseases. What concerns me the most, is that non communicable diseases are largely preventable – meaning that the current initiatives that are in place to prevent the progression of these diseases are currently not working.


National sugar tax has kicked in to effect. Sugary drinks are a natural starting place to experiment with government intervention in the food environment since there’s a lot of evidence linking sugary beverages to diet related diseases. This initiative aims to help decrease the prevalence of obesity in South Africa, a well known risk factor of non communicable diseases. South Africa is now joining various countries in this fight, such as the UK, Mexico, France and Norway who have also introduced similar taxes.

All non alcoholic beverages except for 100% fruit juice and plain fresh milk will be taxed. This means that all sodas, energy drinks, sweetened flavoured milks, sweetened drinking yoghurts, iced teas, sports drinks, flavoured waters, cordials or squashes, syrups and powders will be affected.

The tax is calculated on the sugar content of the drink per 100ml. So, for each gram of sugar above 4g/100ml, the cost of the drink will increase by 2.1 cents. If, however, it is a powder or concentrate, the tax is calculated on the diluted sugar content.

The aim is to deter the public from buying sugary drinks as the financial impact could be quite significant. The hope is that this will also improve the oral health of children.

But, will it work? The jury is still out.

In my opinion, it certainly is a welcome step in the right direction, but only one part of what needs to be a much wider program of action to tackle obesity in children and adults. It is only one piece of the puzzle. I wouldn’t be surprised however, if in the next few years ‘junk food tax’ is introduced, as it has already in a few other countries recently. Obesity is a complex and multi-faceted problem which will require a rand of actions to be truly effective. I know from my day to day work how challenging it is to change children and adult’s eating behaviours.

So, what is the best drink to drink? Stay tuned for my next article: all about how to Rethink your Drink!


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