Harvard prof, medical journal: Food taxes, regs solution to global ‘obesity epidemic’

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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In a multi-part series published Thursday, the British medical journal The Lancet recommends national governments impose new regulations and taxes to stop an “obesity epidemic” that is sweeping the planet.

The respected peer-reviewed journal lays out how the world has seen “four decades” of a “rising obesity epidemic.” One paper from Columbia and Harvard University researchers concludes that if “historic trends continue” there will be “65 million more obese adults in the USA and 11 million more in the UK by 2030.” The authors also write that obesity “is increasing in all countries, but rates vary widely.”

In an editorial, The Lancet says the obesity problem lacks a solution because “governments’ reactions so far are wholly inadequate and rely heavily on self-regulation by the food and beverage industry … [T]he obesity epidemic will not be reversed without government leadership.”

One of the Lancet series’ lead experts, Harvard public health professor Steven Gortmaker, argues that taxing sugar-sweetened beverages and “unhealthy food and drink,” along with new government-imposed restrictions on food and beverage advertising to children, would curb obesity.

“Governments are the most important actors in reversing the obesity epidemic, because protection and promotion of public goods, including public health, is a core responsibility,” Gortmaker wrote. “The repercussions of obesity mainly burden the health system, but ministries outside health, such as finance, education, agriculture, transportation and urban planning, arguably have the greatest influence in creating environments conducive to prevention.”

Gortmaker and his colleagues wrote the series’ obesity recommendations. They point to tobacco taxes and restrictions on marketing tobacco products to children as success stories and believe government-imposed regulations and taxes on “unhealthy food and drink” would produce similar results.

In addition to national governments worldwide implementing new nutrition policies, Gortmaker wants the United Nations to address obesity at its upcoming September meeting on non-communicable diseases in New York City.

“The UN meeting provides a key opportunity to strengthen international leadership from the UN and its agencies, and to stimulate other agencies and states to begin to seriously address the continuing global epidemic of obesity,” Gortmaker wrote. “Beyond that meeting, the test will be how well Member States match their declarations with supportive funding and policies to support global actions.”


Tags : obesity
Matthew Boyle