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Experts recommend sugar tax to promote healthy lifestyle

Some United States health experts are recommending putting a tax on sugar in hopes of encouraging people to make healthier food choices.

In the journal Nature, a University of California team of experts argue sugar is as addicting as alcohol and tobacco, and products should be taxed to reduce consumption.

Central Michigan University Economics Department Chairman Paul Natke said people would react how they would react to any tax.

“Buyers don’t like it, sellers don’t like it,” he said. “One of the purposes of the tax is to discourage types of activities, and another purpose is to raise revenue.”

Natke said he believed people would consume less sugar because of the tax.

“My guess is the intent from the health professionals is to reduce consumption of sugar, which is a health problem in the U.S.,” he said. “And presumably the argument is it’s more costly to use sugar than other substitutes, although I’m not sure how much the tax is supposed to be.”

Registered Dietician Kati Mora, owner of Mora Nutrition, said people are still going to find ways to enjoy these types of foods.

“When we think about sugar, we are thinking that if we eliminate or have people eat less by incorporating this tax, then we’ll eventually see less obesity rates and we’ll see people adapting to healthier lifestyles,” she said. “But unfortunately, sugar isn’t the only cause to (an) obesity problem, so if we single out one nutrient, we often see that nutrient is replaced by something else that typically isn’t better for us.”

Mora said she thinks the tax would raise awareness of how much sugar people are actually consuming.

“Most Americans are consuming too much sugar on a regular basis, and by bringing this issue up, hopefully people are starting to rethink some of their favorite treats and beverages,” she said.

Mora said in the September 2011 issue of American Journal of Critical Nutritiona study said the amount of sugar we consume is more than the recommendation, but there has actually been a decrease in the amount of sugar people have consumed from 1999 to 2008.

A large part of that study is because of people drinking less sugary beverages, she said.

On average, the recommendation for women is six teaspoons, which is equal to 100 calories from sugar of 25 grams of sugar.

For men, the recommendation is nine teaspoons, which is equal to 150 calories from sugar or 37 grams of sugar.

Roseville senior Paul Paonessa said college students would still find a way to buy sugary foods.

“I think it would affect kids more than college students, because the parents are the ones buying it,” Paonessa said.

Mora said not all food containing sugar is bad.

“Look for foods that are nutritionally dense and focus on getting enough vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean meats,” she said. “There will be sugar in some of those foods, but as long as they’re not overdoing it on the added sugar and on sweets with nothing but sugar, then you should be OK.”

Mora said the tax would be like a quick fix, and what we really need is a long-term solution, such as teaching people how to eat healthy.

“By putting a tax on sugary food, making it a bad thing is kind of like a band aid on a bigger problem,” she said.

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