State leg­is­lates diet for a clean bill of health

Depart­ment of en­ergy’s move to raise cost of sugar-sweet­ened bev­er­ages by 20% is de­signed to re­duce in­take and so pre­vent and con­trol non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases and obe­sity, write Het­tie Ca­rina Schön­feldt, Beu­lah Pre­to­rius and Ni­co­lette Hall

CityPress - - Voices & Careers -

The planned sugar tax, which is sched­uled to take ef­fect on April 1 2017, is de­signed to re­duce sugar in­take from sugar-sweet­ened bev­er­ages by up­ping the price with a 20% fis­cal tax.

Health au­thor­i­ties’ plan to is­sue a sugar tax must not be seen in iso­la­tion. It is part of the depart­ment of health’s strate­gic plans to pre­vent and con­trol non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble disease and obe­sity.

These strate­gies have set the am­bi­tious tar­get of re­duc­ing obe­sity by 10% by 2020. And they in­clude salt re­duc­tion leg­is­la­tion, trans-fat reg­u­la­tions, and stricter la­bel and ad­ver­tis­ing reg­u­la­tions.

It is not un­usual for pop­u­la­tions that modernise as a re­sult of so­cioe­co­nomic devel­op­ment to have changes in their di­etary pat­terns.

But the move from tra­di­tional foods to more pro­cessed and con­ve­nience foods is linked to weight gain and an in­creased risk of de­vel­op­ing diet-re­lated non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases such as high blood pres­sure, heart disease and di­a­betes.

Non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases have be­come the lead­ing causes of death in low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries. South Africa is no ex­cep­tion. It has the high­est rates of over­weight and obese adults in Africa.

In its sec­ond Na­tional Bur­den of Disease Study, South Africa’s Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil tracked mor­tal­ity lev­els and trends for non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases be­tween 1997 and 2012. It found that by 2010 non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases ac­counted for 39% of all fa­tal­i­ties, putting them on par with the num­ber of peo­ple dy­ing from HIV/Aids and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis com­bined. The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion pre­dicts that by 2020 these dis­eases will ac­count for 80% of the global bur­den of disease.

The im­pact of non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases has a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on eco­nomic devel­op­ment. The ac­cu­mu­lated loss to South Africa’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct be­tween 2006 and 2015 from di­a­betes, stroke and heart disease was es­ti­mated at $1.88 bil­lion.

In ad­di­tion, obe­sity has also risen at an ex­po­nen­tial rate. The num­ber of over­weight and obese chil­dren in South Africa has in­creased from 1.4% in 1994 to more than 15% in 2004. South Africa has been able to win the bat­tle against mal­nu­tri­tion. While there has been a rise in the num­ber of over­weight and obese peo­ple, many are still un­der­nour­ished be­cause their food choices de­prive their bod­ies of es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents.

The changes in the coun­try’s di­etary pat­terns over time have in­cluded: More foods rich in to­tal and sat­u­rated fats, Less legumes and veg­eta­bles; More en­ergy-dense, mi­cronu­tri­ent-poor snack foods, con­ve­nience foods, veg­etable oils; and

More sweet­ened prod­ucts and bev­er­ages. Adding salt, sugar, fats and oils dur­ing food prepa­ra­tion has also in­creased. Although stud­ies show that peo­ple are eat­ing more fruit and meat than 10 years ago, peo­ple are still not con­sum­ing enough va­ri­ety of foods to meet all the rec­om­mended macro and mi­cro nu­tri­ents for op­ti­mal health and well­be­ing.

As the world con­tin­ues to win bat­tles against HIV/Aids and other com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, the na­tional bur­den of disease at­trib­uted to non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases is ex­pected to in­ten­sify. In the next 10 years it is es­ti­mated that the global non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble disease bur­den will in­crease by 17%. In Africa, this fig­ure will be closer to 27%.

Glob­ally, gov­ern­ments are be­ing forced to pay more at­ten­tion and in­ten­sify their ac­tions against these di­etre­lated dis­eases. As a mem­ber state to the UN, South Africa has signed var­i­ous global res­o­lu­tions and com­mit­ments on food and nu­tri­tion.

By im­ple­ment­ing the sugar tax, South Africa is sim­ply heed­ing its in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments. Schön­feldt is as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of hu­man nu­tri­tion at the In­sti­tute of Food, Nu­tri­tion and Well­be­ing, Pre­to­rius is re­seacher in hu­man nu­tri­tion and food com­po­si­tion and Hall is re­searcher & post-doc in hu­man nu­tri­tion at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria. The ar­ti­cle first ap­peared in the

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