Some countries have already introduced a tax on certain foods and drinks in an attempt to fight rising obesity levels. In the past year, France has started taxing sugary drinks, Denmark has introduced a ‘fat tax’ and Hungary a ‘junk food tax’.

But is this really making a difference to what people choose to eat and could a ‘fat tax’ initiative actually cut obesity levels?

Dr Ahmed R Ahmed, Consultant GI and Bariatric Surgeon at Bupa Cromwell Hospital, commented: Currently, there are not many good quality studies that show taxing junk food results in positive health benefits. Initial research from the US and Ireland has shown that increasing prices has reduced sales of sugary drinks, but whether it has an effect on health is yet to be measured.

Scientists from the University of Oxford suggest that tax would need to be at least 20 percent to have a significant effect on people’s health. This is a big figure – could adding this amount of tax to certain foods put an even greater financial strain on those who regularly rely on cheaper foods, or could it actually make people start to buy healthier options?

And where do we draw the line? How much sugar or fat should a food or drink contain for it to be classed as unhealthy? Cheese, for example, can often be high in saturated fat, but it’s also an important source of protein, calcium and vitamins. Adding ‘fat tax’ to certain foods could mean other essential nutrients are lost.

It seems ‘fat tax’ has come about following the taxing of cigarettes and alcohol – prices are rising on these items all the time, with the aim of reducing the amount of people who smoke and drink. However, food is essential to everyday life, and not such a black and white area to tackle when it comes to our health. Is this idea of taxing food too drastic or could it be the key to tackling obesity?

Rather than taxing foods, it may be more effective to make people more aware of what they eat, and what should be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. Initiatives, such as clearer food labelling, which is easy to read and understand, may be a more effective option.

Losing weight shouldn’t mean drastic actions or crash dieting. Even small changes to your diet can lead to positive health changes. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables, will lower your chances of becoming overweight, and therefore reduce your risk of diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer, in later life. Essentially, it’s a simple balance between eating the right foods and getting enough exercise – increase the good stuff, cut out the bad stuff and get active to look after your health.

Key facts: losing weight safely

The best way to lose weight is to make small changes to both your diet and the amount of exercise you do. To lose weight safely:

  • get active – try to do 150 minutes of physical activity a week in bouts of ten minutes of more
  • follow a healthy balanced diet and try roasting, boiling, grilling or steaming food instead of frying it
  • improve your eating habits – have three balanced meals a day, with healthy snacks in between
  • set realistic goals – even small, gradual changes can make a huge difference
  • don’t crash diet – slow, steady weight loss is more likely to last
  • reward yourself – treat yourself to a trip to the cinema, a new top or a beauty treatment when you hit your targets

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