Health group calls for 'sugar tax' to cut child obesity
A "sugar tax" should be introduced by the UK government to help curb obesity in childhood, a campaign group says.
Action on Sugar has produced a seven-point plan to discourage children from consuming foods and soft drinks with high levels of added sugar...
The seven proposed measures are:
- Reduce added sugars in food by 40% by 2020
- Ban all forms of targeted marketing of ultra-processed, unhealthy foods and drinks to children
- Disassociate physical activity with obesity by banning junk food sports sponsorships
- Reduce fat by 15% in ultra-processed foods by 2020
- Limit the availability of ultra-processed foods and sweetened soft drinks as well as reducing portion sizes
- Introduce a sugar tax to incentivise healthier food
The scholars amongst you will notice that there are only six points in this seven point plan, which is good indicator of how Action on Sugar handles data.
I've written about Denmark's fat tax fiasco at length and there are clear lessons for anyone thinking about bringing in a sugar tax. The other policy ideas are also contemptible, but I'd like to focus on one aspect which is particularly disgraceful for a group that claims to be interested in health.
Regular readers will know that Malhotra is either a shameless liar or amazingly stupid. He is on usual form today, saying that it is "really quite shameful that the food industry continues to spend billions in junk food advertising targeting children"—this is rather unlikely considering the the UK's entire advertising spend is £14 billion and there are strict rules on 'junk food' advertising, particularly with regards to children.
Worse than this is his ongoing attempt to convince people that physical inactivity doesn't matter.
"It's time to bust the myth of physical activity and obesity and dissociate junk food and sport," he added.
Malhotra wants to absolve people from responsibility by denying that physical inactivity is a large part of the obesity problem so that he can blame Big Food and bring in stupid, ineffective measures like banning advertising. He does so despite the fact that the World Health Organisation says that physical inactivity is the world's fourth biggest killer, and despite the obvious fact that burning off calories is a very good way of staying fit, slim and healthy.
The simple fact is that the rise in obesity has been primarily caused by a reduction in physical activity, not a rise in calorie consumption. Previous generations consumed more calories but were not obese because they were more physically active, particularly at work. A typical Victorian worker consumed many more calories (including lots of sugar and fat), but burnt them off. The big change in the last few decades has been the rise of sedentary working conditions for the masses.
As the British Heart Foundation notes:
Overall intake of calories, fat and saturated fat has decreased since the 1970s. This trend is accompanied by a decrease in sugar and salt intake, and an increase in fibre and fruit and vegetable intake.
I've put that in bold because it should be read, re-read and memorised by anyone claiming to understand the causes of obesity. The BHF has an excellent compilation of statistics which show some important trends. I don't have time to turn them into graphs right now, but I recommend downloading it and perusing it (particularly page 125). It shows quite clearly that consumption of the food products that are most commonly blamed for obesity having been in decline for decades.
The importance of physical activity is not a "myth". Its decline over the decades is the primary cause of rising obesity. The correct response to this social change is to exercise more or consume fewer calories (or preferably both). It is utterly negligent to tell people that physical activity doesn't matter and yet this is exactly what Malhotra—who is a cardiologist, for God's sake—repeatedly tells people in so many words. It is appalling advice for a doctor to give. The man should be struck off.