Medical bodies urge govt to hike tax on unhealthy food

Arguing that South Asians are more susceptible to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, and National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation, India, along with Diabetes Foundation, have urged the government to increase taxes on unhealthy food items.
Mentioning that Kerala recently announced a ‘fat tax’ on pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, and tacos sold through branded food outlets, Anoop Misra, Director, Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases, Diabetes Foundation, said, “A 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened drinks in India is projected to reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity by three per cent and the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 1.6 per cent over the period 2014-23, assuming that consumption increases at par with current trends.”
Doctors said that a 20 per cent tax on palm oil purchase in India is projected to avert approximately 3,63,000 deaths from myocardial infarctions and strokes between the period of 2014-23.
Palm oil is consumed widely in India and low and middle-income countries. It is high in saturated fat and can increase cholesterol concentration in the body. Data shows a reduction of 1 mmol/L in cholesterol concentration due to substitution of palm oil with soya oil. This reduction in cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol would equate to a 22 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr Nikhil Tandon, Professor, Department of Endocrinology, AIIMS.
Doctors have called for an urgent action to provide screening and treatment, complemented by lifestyle modifications. “School health programmes have been hindered by low budgets and poor infrastructure. There are no restrictions on advertising unhealthy food to minors. Such legislation must be complemented with multi-sectoral action,” said Dr Misra.

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