January 9 2016, Saturday


Regulation of Vice – Sugar Tax a la Mexico? Correlation to Diminished Consumption

Dr K K Aggarwal and Dr S S Agarwal

Delhi has followed Mexico City’s footsteps in curbing vehicle circulation to reduce pollution. Will India now follow with the taxation of sugar?

As reported in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) a Mexican peso-per liter tax on sugary drinks implemented in January 2014 reduced consumption, specifically a 6% decline in purchase of these beverages within a year, with increased price by 10%.

This grew to a 12% decline in the final month of the year, mostly amongst lower income strata. Chile, Barbados, and France have also implemented sugar beverage taxes with the UK now considering it, and Mexico has further imposed taxes on other sugar-laden junk foods.

Like India, prevalence of diabetes is amongst the highest in the world in Mexico, with around 70% of adults being overweight or obese. Clearly regulation of vices such as cigarettes through increased costs have led to intended benefits world over of lower consumption as well. A new report in The Lancet has estimated that reducing sugar content in sugar sweetened drinks by 40% over 5 years could prevent half a million people from becoming overweight and a million people from becoming obese.

With India being the diabetes capital of the world – what’s different here? Consumption of sweetened beverages has proliferated to the masses, but diet is also compromised through traditional sweets, spiking during festival seasons, and adulteration is rampant. Should the definition be made broader in India to include all value added products including sugar like white maida and white rice?

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About 1 in 3 adults suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension

According to the WHO, hypertension, which is most commonly known as high blood pressure, is estimated to affect more than one in three adults aged 25 and over, or about one billion people globally. It is one of the most important precipitators of heart disease and stroke – thereby making it the number one cause of premature death and disability around the world.

Sharing their thoughts, Dr. S.S Agarwal – National President and Padma Shri Awardee Dr. KK Aggarwal – Honorary Secretary General IMA and President HCFI in a joint statement said, “High blood pressure or hypertension increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Hypertension risk factors include obesity, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, and family history. Early diagnosis and simple, healthy lifestyle changes can keep high BP from seriously damaging your health.”

Given below are some facts about hypertension and its prevention

  • About 1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure or hypertension (HT), but many are unaware of it.
  • High blood pressure has been called a "silent killer," because it usually has no warning signs, yet it can lead to life-threatening conditions like heart attack, kidney failure or stroke.
  • The good news is that hypertension can often be treated and most importantly it can be prevented.
  • It is normal for BP to fluctuate throughout the day i.e. it can go up and down.
  • Time of day, exercise, stress and food are some factors that affect BP. A BP that remains high for a long period of time it can lead to problems.
  • In due course of time, high BP can damage many vital organs of the body like the heart, kidneys, brain and eyes and increase the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, or kidney disease.
  • Children too can have high BP. But the risk increases with advancing age. Once people are in their 60s, about two-thirds of the population is affected by hypertension.
  • Because it usually has no symptoms, the only way to know for sure that you have hypertension is to get your BP measured.
  • BP is recorded as two numbers. The first ‘upper’ number represents the pressure in blood vessels as the heart beats (called systolic pressure). The second ‘lower’ number is the pressure as the heart relaxes and fills with blood (diastolic pressure). The safest blood pressure is 120/80 or lower.
  • Hypertension is defined as having an average blood pressure of above 140/90.
  • A diagnosis of hypertension is usually based on an average of 2 or more readings taken on 2 or more occasions as BP can vary widely from day to day.
  • If your blood pressure falls between "normal" and "hypertension," it’s sometimes called prehypertension. People with prehypertension are more likely to end up with high blood pressure if they do not take steps to prevent it.
  • When treating to the lower goal of 120, the risk of developing a cardiovascular complication such as a heart attack or stroke is reduced by 25%, and the risk of death from all causes is reduced by 27%.