One-third of US adults are obese

One-third of US adults are obese

The American Medical Association (AMA) has said that taxes on high-sugar soft drinks should help fund obesity education, but has fallen short of an outright endorsement of punitive levies.

The AMA, the largest association of medical doctors in the US, voted at its annual meeting in Chicago yesterday (20 June) to adopt a policy that tackles rising obesity levels in the country. Taxes are not the only way to fight the problem, the AMA said, and, if implemented, the money should go into education efforts.

"While there is no silver bullet that will alone reverse the meteoric rise of obesity, there are many things we can do to fight this epidemic and improve the health of our nation," said AMA board member Alexander Ding in a statement.

"Where taxes are implemented on sugar-sweetened beverages, using revenue for anti-obesity programmes and educational campaigns explaining the adverse effects of excessive consumption of these beverages will help to reduce the consumption of these caloric beverages and improve public health."

In 2006 and 2011, the association's House of Delegates considered resolutions to support imposing taxes on high-sugar drinks but did not pass them, just-drinks understands.

The American Beverage Association (ABA) said it supported AMA's goal of reducing obesity in the US but warned taxes would not work.

“Funding anti-obesity programs through discriminatory taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages is misguided,” it said in a statement. “Even the AMA’s report acknowledges that sugar-sweetened beverage taxes alone are 'unlikely to significantly impact the prevalence of obesity and other adverse outcomes'.”

High-calorie beverages have been the focus of attention since New York mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on large, high-sugar soft drinks earlier this month. Yesterday, Cambridge in Massachusetts said it was considering a similar ban.

More than one-third of adults in the US are obese, according to health authorities in the country.

In yesterday's vote, the AMA also backed more research into the effects of long-term consumption of non-caloric sweeteners in beverages.