That Sugar Movement


Sugar-sweetened beverages have become more affordable


Well, this ain’t great news.

According to a recent report released by the American Cancer Society, soft drink prices have decreased significantly in recent years, making them more affordable to everyone across the globe.1

Looking at data from 40 high-income and 42 middle to low-income countries between 1990 and 2016, researchers found soft drinks more affordable in 79 of those countries.

This was in part due to the combined price drop and rise in income over this time, but in 56 countries the real price dropped.

“Overall in the countries we studied, a person in 2016 could buy 71 percent more sugar-sweetened beverages with the same share of their income than they could in 1990,” said study co-author Jeffrey Drope. “Sugary drinks became even more affordable in developing countries, where 2016’s income could buy 89 percent more sugar-sweetened beverages than in 1990. That’s essentially half-price.”

Sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drink are nutritionally devoid; empty energy that offers no benefit to the body but can contribute harm.

Too much added sugar delivered in products like sugary drinks can lead to weight gain and an increase in the dangerous visceral fat, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver, infertility, and even certain cancers.

“Although the increase in affordability is partly due to economic progress that resulted from rapid global economic development, it is also attributable to a lack of action taken by policymakers to affect the price of sugar-sweetened beverages,” note the study authors.

“We argue and the scientific literature strongly suggests that this environment of increasingly affordable sugar-sweetened beverages will inevitably drive increased consumption of such products and will certainly hamper global efforts to address the overweight and obesity epidemic.”

Despite us knowing what is good and not so good for us, and desiring to improve health by making better food choices, it seems we are being thwarted due to the affordability (and clever marketing) of these sugary beverages.

Which is why intervention such as a soft drink tax could help steer purchasing behaviour away from the not-so-helpful drinks.

“The logical intervention is for governments to affect prices through excise taxation, as they have done with other unhealthful products such as cigarettes.”

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.) 



  1. Blecher, E, Liber, AC, Drope, JM, Nguyen, B, & Stoklosa, M 2017, ‘Global Trends in the Affordability of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, 1990-2016’, Preventing Chronic Disease, vol. 14, p. E37.



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