People living in the Western NSW Local Health District could benefit from a mooted tax on sugary drinks with almost six out of 10 of them overweight or obese.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has been calling on the federal government to introduce the tax, contending as many as one in five Australians die from conditions related to a poor diet, such as cancer, diabetes, coronary artery disease and stroke.
On a 2016 table of peers, the Western NSW Local Health District – of which Orange is a part – had the fourth highest rate of diabetes or high blood glucose in people aged over 16 at 11.1 per cent of the population.
In the same year, it was found that 59.1 per cent of the Western district’s population was overweight or obese.
In light of those figures, two of the region’s advocacy groups are behind the crackdown on sugar-rich beverages as a means of reducing waistlines.
Cancer Council NSW’s Camilla Thompson says over half of NSW adults are overweight or obese, and “over one in five children are too”.
“Cancer Council NSW supports the introduction of a sugary drinks tax,” she said.
“Evidence showed that a tax will reduce consumption of such drinks and help tackle Australia’s high obesity rates.”
Marathon Health dietitian Elizabeth Brown said type 2 diabetes is one of the major consequences of the obesity epidemic and “can be reduced through simple lifestyle modifications such as lowering sugar intake”.
The average Australian consumes 25 teaspoons of sugar a day. Eleven of those are intrinsic sugars occurring naturally in fruit, vegetables and milk, while the rest are ‘free sugars’ which include “all the guilty pleasures we associate with sugar”, plus honey and fruit juice.
The average Australian is consuming two teaspoons of free sugars a day more than recommended by the World Health Organisation, amounting to 730 teaspoons a year, or three kilograms of pure sugar.
The biggest sugar fix comes from beverages, with soft drinks and mineral waters on top of the list of drinks containing the most sugar, followed by fruit and vegetable juices and drinks.
Objections to the tax from politicians and food and drink industry representatives included its impact on the family grocery bill, but peak health groups and experts are backing the AMA’s bid for Australia to join the 26 countries already taxing sugar-heavy drinks.