Soda Tax Won't Do Much To Reduce Obesity: Fat People Already Drink Diet

One of the silver bullets that food nannies want to fire at the obesity "epidemic" is a tax on sugary sodas. The idea relies on an insight from economics: higher prices tend to reduce demand for a product. Now ScienceDaily is reporting a new study that suggests that this silver bullet is likely to be a dud:

...obese people tend to drink diet sodas, and therefore taxing soft drinks with added sugar or other sweeteners is not a good weapon in combating obesity, according to a new Northwestern University study. ...

"After doing the analysis, it really turns out to be the case that obese people like diet soda so much more than regular soda that you can do whatever you want to the price," said Ketan Patel, a fourth-year doctoral student in economics [who authored the study]. "You're not going to get that much change in obese people's weight because they already drink diet soda." ...

Beyond its ineffectiveness in reducing obesity, such a tax also would punish consumers that are not overweight or obese, Patel said.

Go here and here to see more skeptical reporting on soda taxes by my colleagues by my Reason colleagues.

Disclosure: I have taken the Pepsi challenge; I prefer Diet Coke. My BMI is 24.3.

H/T Phil Meade.

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  • Matrix||

    artificial sweetners are disgusting poisons! Blech!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Only if you're a lab rat. You're not a lab rat, are you?

  • Matrix||

    looking at the economic policies coming out of the White House and Congress... I'd say we're all lab rats in their experiments.

  • Zeb||

    Well, they're still disgusting.

  • squishua||

    And also only if you're getting doses several thousands times larger than you'd get from soda consumption swabbed up your sphincter every day of your life.

  • ||

    I won't call them poison, but I hate all diet sodas.

    A couple of years ago, Coke was promoting Coke Zero by handing out free cans to passers-by on the Strip in Las Vegas. I took a can and nearly threw up from the taste. Zogawful!

  • ||

    Maybe you shouldn't drink things handed out by strangers on the street, genius. You puckheads are all too gullible.

  • ||

    "What the hell was that? I knew I shouldn't have eaten that packet of powdered gravy I found in the parking lot. "

  • Homer Simpson||

    Mmm... graaaavy...

  • Michael Moore||

    Don't knock it 'til you've tried it, SugarFree.

  • ||

    You puckheads are all too gullible.

    Yeah, I trusted an American. Should have known better. The guy who handed it to me probably voted for Harry Reid.

  • ||

    You're lucky to be alive.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Did they tell you they were an American or were they wearing an "I'm an American" T-Shirt?

  • Ted S.||

    I don't like carbonated beverages, and drink my coffee black, no sugar.

  • Paleo||

    So is sugar. Half of table sugar is fructose, which is processes just like alcohol but without the buzz.

  • ||

    Don't worry. They have a plan for this. After they inflate the currency to such an extent that buying a loaf of bread takes two days salary, the national obesity problem will be solved.

  • Old Mexican||

    Only two days salary???

    Where do you buy your bread? Do you use coupons? Tell me!!!!

  • juris imprudent||

    Where do you buy your bread?

    I would have to guess Whole Foods.

  • Old Mexican||

    Beyond its ineffectiveness in reducing obesity, such a tax also would punish consumers that are not overweight or obese, Patel said.


    It is not the first time that politicians and their syncophants lie about their reasons for taxing property away from people.

  • Old Mexican||

    "Sycophant," not syncophant. Sorry.

  • juris imprudent||

    I don't know, their ass-rapery seems pretty rhythmic.

  • Restoras||

    If they want to punish fatties for being fat why not make them pay a fair health insurance premium? And reward the skinnies for thier sanctimonious lifestyle with lower premiums?

  • GILMORE||

    Because most people don't have personal health insurance, but group insurance through their employer, which doesn't evaluate people on an individual basis, but by "Community Rating" guidelines. They can charge a higher premium if you happen to live someplace like Chernobyl, or Newark, or whatever...someplace where mortality/risks are considerably different than say, Marin county... but not if you personally happen to be a fatty-fat-body.

    With the healthcare industry, its sometimes hard to see whats worse - the way things are, or the solutions people keep proposing.

    I vaguely remember the time when we used to have a family doctor. It was also during a time when we had milk delivered (in bottles), got our meat from an actual butcher shop, and basketball shorts were tiny, looked silly, and the game involved a far higher proportion of white people doing layups.

    Not everything has gotten worse I guess.

    (reads headline passing on CNBC ticker: "Study Finds: Everything Worse Than Used to Be")

    Oh. mmm.

  • Restoras||

    Yes, I know that people with unhealthy personal habits are shielded from insurance premium downside thanks to the group plans offered by employers. I just think its bullshit. maybe if these people were forced to actually face some consequences for the choices they are free to make, instead of a guarantee of free money from someone else, they might actually take care of themselves and be less of a burden on the healthcare industry?

    Of course, I guess you could then argue that more people would then live longer and that would raise a whole host of other issues...

  • ld||

    Because a slight increase in health insurance premiums (depending on the study, that's all the increased cost you find) for smoking, drinking, or obesity is, for the majority of people it would effect, far less of a concern than the increased mortality and morbidity.

  • ||

    actually, iirc studies have shown that smoking is a net gain to society since they often die before being able to recover much, if any social security/insurance payments, and they pay heavy taxes through their lifetime to buy the things.

    cigarettes are a poor example. in aggregate, they save society money

    obesity is the opposite in that people require a lot more medical care, drawn out over decades, and are also far less productive in general, etc.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I would actually be very interested to see what the actuaries would come up with on that. You always hear about the figures about health care costs associated with obesity, but obviously if the obese are dropping dead of heart attacks in their 40's, there are some significant savings as well. Not only in the medical cost they would have incured for another 30 or 40 years, but also in long-term care in nursing home or wherever. Has anyone seen any studies on comparisons for health care cost over a lifetime instead of just annually?

  • ||

    in brief (see my other post), the consensus/studies show that obesity costs, smoking saves society money

    obesity tends to promote chronic conditions that often don't cause death, but just years of expensive treatment. also, the obese (moreso, the more obese they are) tend to be minimally productive compared to smokers, etc.

  • short, fat bastard||

    12 patents and counting.

    Go fuck yourself.

  • MNG||

    Hey, OM, where ya been ya crazy coot? Welcome back!

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    Hey, OM, where ya been ya crazy coot? Welcome back!


    Thanks! Work increased, pay stayed the same... same o' same o'!

    I also went back to Mexico to have my visa renewed. Nail-bitting process, I have to tell you. But fortunately, I am back!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Bailey makes a good point; we should all disclose our BMI.

  • Brett L||

    23.7 according to this. Although, since it doesn't accept half inches, I am 24.1 by linear interpolation. When I was in better shape, I was up over 25 according to the same calculator. I've gotten thinner because I sit more and eat less now. Not sure that contributes to 'health' in any way.

  • Jason||

    23.7 BMI and I drink full sugar sodas several times a day.

    Real sugar sodas when I can get them.

  • short, fat bastard||

    somewhere in the vicinity of 45

  • KDN||

    26.2 - 27.5 depending on what I ate and how often I drank over the past week (5'11 / 188 - 197). I'd have to drop 65 lbs to be underweight, which I don't think is possible short of me entering a concentration camp.

    BMI marks those in proper shape to play any sport besides Soccer or Basketball as Overweight or Obese. It's obviously a Euroconspiracy designed to prey on our vanity.

  • short, fat bastard||

    Don't forget golf.

  • ||

    I guarantee you that guys like Tim Howard, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Jozy Altidore, most of any European team's backline, Leo Messi and a whole host of others in soccer would be considered "overweight" by the idiotic BMI.

    Peter Crouch is legitimately underweight by BMI, but looks positively skeletal compared to everyone around him in the game.

  • KDN||

    Messi's only 23.1, but he's a twig. I take back what I said about soccer, most non forwards (and quite a few strikers) are overweight.

  • robc||

    I graduated HS at 6 ft and 125 lbs. When I look back at pictures, I wonder why someone didnt feed me. BMI of 17.0, which was underweight. Duh.

    I graduated college at 145. BMI of 19.7 which is on low end of normal range. BULLSHIT! I was still fucking underweight.

    My optimal weight is about 175. BMI of 23.7, which is high end of normal.

    Im currently between 205 and 215, which is overweight, but BMI has may just short of obese, which I am not.

    I need to lose 30 lbs, but the BMI scale is insane.

  • KDN||

    With my frame my ideal weight is about 180 - 185. I'd still be overweight according to BMI. The whole system assumes that people are built lankier by default than they are. In order to get down to the midpoint of normal on BMI I'd have to lose any muscle mass I've built up since I hit puberty. No thanks.

  • Donovan McNabb||

    31

  • ||

    BMI is useless for anything buy sedentary fucksticks. it doesn't differentiate between fat and muscle. i have a MUCH higher BMI as a competitive strength athlete, than i did when all i did was run marathons and 5k's and surf. yet, i have lower bodyfat %age now.

    BMI is a proxy that only "works" when people aren't athletic.

    it's a joke

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Looks at gut. Looks at diet soda on desk.

    It's a fair cop.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    But beer's cool, right? RIGHT?!!!

  • MNG||

    Sin taxes are always a bad idea, nannyism at their worst. They are regressive and paternalistic.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    You hit this one right, MNG.

    Too bad those idiots who wanted a tax on tanning beds, didn't listen.

  • ||

    Fat people immediately go for the diet soda. I remember being a kid and seeing a fat lady drinking Tab and eating a big plate of pancakes and thinking "lady, that soda isn't the problem".

  • ||

    When I was just a sprout we had neighbors across the street that went through 2 cases of Tab, a half gallon of whiskey and several boxes of DingDongs every DAY. and yes, they were a bit overweight. no idea just how many ciggies they smoked but the pizza pan sized ashtray was always overflowing with butts.

  • Bee Tagger||

    Apparently, it wasn't the sharp edges of life that have sculpted Epi into the cold-hearted statue that he is today. He was born this chiseled.

  • ||

    Who weeps for Adonais?

  • ld||

    As a fat person, I've been drinking diet soda since I was still only barely overweight middle schooler. I just prefer the taste.

    I suspect there might be something there, not just trying to lose weight by drinking diet soda.

    There is some evidence that aspartame in particular (my favorite of the artificial sweeteners in soda) may even decrease weight loss in those dieting. Still keep drinking diet soda though.

  • short, fat bastard||

    It's worse than that. The latest report is that aspartame triggers higher fasting glucose levels in mice. The implication is that aspartame by itself could trigger type 2 diabetes in humans.

  • ld||

    As a fat person, I've been drinking diet soda since I was still only barely overweight middle schooler. I just prefer the taste.

    I suspect there might be something there, not just trying to lose weight by drinking diet soda.

    There is some evidence that aspartame in particular (my favorite of the artificial sweeteners in soda) may even decrease weight loss in those dieting. Still keep drinking diet soda though.

  • ||

    My diabeetus doc tells me the hardest thing to get most diabetics to do is to stop drinking regular soda.

    39g of carbs in a 12oz can of Coke. Diabetics (depending on weight and activity) are usually counseled to eat less that 120g of carbs a day.

  • ||

    My ex found a low carb lifestyle to be the easiest way to lose weight. We would wind up eating lots of veggies and meat and hardly any processed foods. I am still trying to find a source of low carb donuts.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Trying to discover dilithium crystals would be easier, bro'ben,

  • Robert||

    I tried Atkins induction (no more than 10g CHO/d, all else ad lib) but found I was rapidly gaining weight on it, plus badly constipated (usually I tend toward diarrhea).

  • Fatty Bolger||

    It's really not necessary to go full Atkins. Just cut the overall carbs down, and switch out refined carbs for whole grains whenever possible.

  • ||

    it works better or worse for different people. iow, people vary.

    a friend of mine literally wrote the book on ketogenic diets, and he admits as much.

    one thing i see works for nearly all people (including me when i am cutting weight for contests) is cutting out all the processed crap. by processed, i include deep fried stuff, as well as processed carbs

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Here you go: Low carb donuts.

    Serving size: 1 Donut

  • ||

    LOL. Thanks for that.

  • ||

    No doubt in my mind carbs are fattening, esp. easily digestible ones (refined starches and sugars). Sugars are probably the worst because the combination of glucose and fructose spikes blood sugar (due to glucose), causing elevated insulin, while the fructose is metabolized in the liver and mostly converted to triglycerides.

    That said, diet soda may contribute to weight gain due just to the sweet taste, even though it has no sugar. There is some evidence to suggest that some people release insulin in response to a sweet taste, even if the food has no digestible calories. E.g. the body is accustomed to needing insulin whenever something sweet is consumed, so it releases insulin even though its not needed. Kinda like Pavlov's dog. And elevated insulin is necessary for body fat to be stored.

  • ||

    But in diabetics, type I at least, they produce no insulin. Even if the theory is true (and it seems implausible based on my experience), diet sodas are a free ride for TI diabetics craving sweets.

  • ||

    insulin is also an extremely important hormone for strength athletes and those trying to build muscle. insulin doesn't just promote fat cell hypertrophy, it also promotes muscle cell hypertrophy. there is a time and a place to spike insulin.

    if you are a sedentary fatfuck, the time is "never"

    if you are athlete, spiking your insulin at times can be beneficial.

    the problem is that so much of the CW, not to mention the ridiculous BMI is based on the average sedentary fatfuck or skinnyfat fuck. not athletes or very active people

    the same is true of the RDA (which is the minimum amount of these nutrients needed to stave off diseases like scurvy, rickets, etc. in SEDENTARY folks,) not the optimal amounts to promote health and vitality in either sedentary or active folks

  • Wilford Brimley||

    DIABEETUS!!!!!

  • robc||

    I quit for a year. Just restarted. Need to quit again.

  • Fat Cat||

    Ag subsidies create obesity.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I maintain that Aspartame makes one more likely to be fat, not less, judging from all of the land-whales that consume diet soda.

    Give me that old-time sugar.

  • ||

    This is an article saying as much.
    http://shine.yahoo.com/channel.....t-2504019/

    yes, as a matter of fact I have lost my notes on how to do html shtuff.

  • Restoras||

  • ||

    Thank you. The local squirrels seem to have done the work for me. I cut and pasted the link and it turned up clickable here.

    All Hail The Server Squirrels!

  • ||

    talk about a ridiculous example of correlation =/= causation

    aspartame does NOT "cause" people to be fat.

    however, (1) many people who are already fat switch to diet sodas, thus you see fat people drinking diet sodas
    (2) aspartame can cause sugar craving which in undisciplined fucks can cause a desire to start chomping down sugary stuff shortly after consuming aspartame. chomping down sugary stuff causes obesity, the aspartame does not

    aspartame has no calories. at its most basic level, you can't get fat from zero calories.

    your argument holds no merit

  • Anonymous Coward||

    your argument holds no merit

    NO U

  • ||

    again, it's the same specious argument i am railing against.

    aspartame does NOT make people fat. aspartame can increase cravings for sugary crap, but the choice must still be made by the EATER as to whether to succumb

    iow, eating like a fatass makes you fat. aspartame, having no calories, does not

  • Hugh Jass||

    "You're not going to get that much change in obese people's weight because they already drink diet soda."


    Hugh Jass: Yes, give me two Big Macs, a large order of fries, a chocolate sundae and a diet coke.

  • Xenocles||

    Try the Filet O'Fish sandwich next time. It has less calories because it's fish.

  • alan||

    That's not going to help. One le Big Mac and the soda. Leave off the desert and fries. Save you some cash flow too that can be used for better things. 'bout the price of two MGD 64's mixed in a pitcher with a liter of lime seltzer. Awesome on a hot day.

  • Xenocles||

  • Brett L||

    Real beer (6% ABV/12 oz bottle) should have about 100 calories do solely to ethanol. A "beer" that has only 64 calories/12 oz bottle is problematic to me.

  • alan||

    It's a very weak 2.8%. I only recommend it as a flavor enhancer for seltzer.

  • ||

    According to the studies I've seen, a diet with artificial sweeteners is more conducive to weight gain than one with sugar. Apparently the sweet taste causes the insulin reaction even if actual blood sugar isn't present.

    This would seem to be confirming evidence...

  • ||

    the "studies" that draw these conclusions tend to make a # of assumptions etc.

    aspartame does not cause anybody to be fat. aspartame causes sugar cravings, which IF GIVEN IN TO, make people fat. it's the sugah y0. not the aspartame.

  • von Laue||

    Well, I guess this aspartame shit might be a problem for free-living humans, though. I mean, your point is no more meaningful more than asserting nicotine causes you to be skinny because it kills food cravings. ya know?

  • von Laue||

    doesn't cause you to be...dammit!

  • ||

    u can choose not to give in to food cravings.

  • Unrepentant Nanny||

    It may not help the fat people, but we must do it...

    FUR THE CHILLUNS!!

  • ||

    Back when I was overweight, I got so used to drinking diet soda that I literally cannot handle normal soda. Now that I'm no longer overweight, I've stop drinking soda all together.

  • ||

    There's the secret. I get annoyed at fat people who complain "I switched to diet soda and I didn't lose weight! What else can I possibly do?!"

  • short, fat bastard||

    Skinny bitches that drink diet soda seem to stay skinny, so it does not seem that likely that diet soda "causes" weight gain.

    My opinion is that fat bastards get fat by drinking soda with sugar, then fail to get not-fat by switching to diet soda.

    This could well be caused by binging triggered by body's response to the false sweet tast of soda as described in recent reports.

  • ||

    yes, much more correct than these stupid posts claiming that aspartame makes people fat. the latter is so colossally stupid and unscientific i don't know where to start

  • Robert||

    I dislike the taste of most diet sodas, but diet tangerine, Fresca, and Canfield's chocolate are OK, and powdered diet drink mixes (where the aspartame hasn't time to hydrolyze) are very good. I remember when Tom Borelli brought to New York Medical College's Biochem Dept. some prototype aspartame-sweetened drink powder from General Foods (where he worked then) that we dissolved in a volumetric cylinder; first time I tasted anything with aspartame.

  • ¢||

    I won't call them poison, but I hate all diet sodas.

    Congratulations! You may be one of the lucky tiny percentage of us whose taste buds can properly bind with those artificial-sweetener molecules that (I guess) taste like sugar to normal people.
    One time I accidentally shot some of that temperature-resistant flat black spraypaint for fireplace tools into my face. It tasted exactly like Diet Pepsi does.

    Sucralose is the only "sweetener" that's different, but it's not better, and it's not like any other earthly flavor. A frosting-fueled robot's sugar-metal shit? But old. And it's Indian food. And it's groin-y.
    GAK

  • KDS||

    Okay, now I want to hear the story about the black spray paint to the face... particularly the"accidentally" part.

  • Brett L||

    "What had happened was, it got in this paper bag and the paper bag got stuck over my nose and mouth!"

  • AlmightyJB||

    Seems like they could solve a lot of problems just by legalizing barbituates, narcotics, and Benzodiazepines. I bet the national bmi average would drop like a rock.

  • Brett L||

    Stop demonizing smoking. Probably the best correlation between obesity and any one factor in America.

  • ||

    i know several bodybuilders who either smoke, or use nicotine patches when they are cutting weight (and only when they are cutting weight).

    nicotine has a # of beneficial properties, much like almost any drug. staving off hunger pains and several other factors involving vasodilation/constriction etc.

  • ||

    We have seen a large amount of fat people drinking diet sodas. Therefore, we have concluded that diet sodas make you fat.

  • FDA||

    Not to mention the white stretch pants.

  • ||

    It may or may not help the fat people but to have a laugh, have a look at this collection of funny looking Fat People Pictures.

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