You may have seen in the news earlier this week that the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which represents most doctors in the UK, has advised that a 20% tax should be introduced on sugary drinks. This is supposed to make people drink less of them and is just one of a series of recommendations made with a view to tackling the UK’s growing obesity crisis. Well it’s good to see that doctors are finally taking an interest in doing something about obesity; but will taxing these drinks really work? In my local supermarket you can buy two 2 litre bottles of cheap pop for a pound. A 20% increase applied to that will bring the price up to £1.20. Is that really enough to put off those who simply can’t get through the day without their regular sugar fix? I don’t think so. And why pick on the manufacturers of these products in particular? People eat and drink plenty of other things that are bad for them. What about cheap booze, doughnuts and ready meals?! In my view it would be far more effective to educate people about why very sugary drinks are unhealthy so that they can make their own informed choice to avoid them.
So why are these drinks so bad for us? Well, basically because consuming large quantities of them puts you on the fast track to obesity. Sodas contain large amounts of high fructose corn syrup that spikes your blood sugar, adds inches to your waistline and could in time can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes; although of course sugary drinks are by no means the only cause of this. I truly believe that most people, especially young ones, have no idea what a serious condition type 2 diabetes is and simply don’t realise how much damage they’re storing up by drinking large amounts of sugar, for example thinking nothing of supersizing their McDonalds meal with a large Coke.
Of course you could just switch to diet versions of fizzy drinks, which contain no sugar; but these are harmful in a different way – full of artificial sweeteners plus scary cocktails of colouring and flavouring chemicals. I believe that one of the single most positive things you can do to help yourself become more healthy is to replace fizzy drinks and squashes with plain water – and it doesn’t have to be the pricey bottled stuff. I meet so many people who consume frightening amounts of sugary drinks, people who would never dream of turning on the tap and having a drink of what my Nana used to call ‘Corporation Pop’. Only this week I watched an episode of Supersize vs Superskinny featuring a woman who drank at least a pint of cola with every meal – sometimes two – and wondered why she weighed over 20 stone! I can guarantee that if you drink vast amounts of pop every day you’ll feel miles better if you simply replace it with water; less tired and headachy, more energetic.
Of course some people say they need sugary drinks and (even more worryingly) energy drinks such as Red Bull to get them through the day and stop them feeling tired. If this is the case you need to look at what you’re eating too. Junk food won’t give you the energy you need to sustain a busy lifestyle – good nutrition will.
Rather than taking a reactive, negative stance on obesity by simply taxing everything that’s bad for us, the government should be doing more to educate people on how to make positive choices about what they consume and why they should do that – not just children in schools, but adults too. What do you think?