Feb 6, 2018

What if we dramatically cut our sugar consumption? Um, we already did.

Australians have already reduced their soft drink consumption by far more than a sugar tax would ever achieve -- but we still got fatter.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

This is the second instalment in a two-part series. Read part one here.

The rationale for a sugar tax goes something like this: increasing the price of soft drinks will lead to decreased demand for them and lower consumption of sugar; as a result, people will lose weight, with attendant public health benefits.

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16 thoughts on “What if we dramatically cut our sugar consumption? Um, we already did.

  1. Sleuth

    “Australians are among the world’s longest-lived people, and we are staying healthy for longer than ever”. Said Bernard Keane.
    Not exactly true, because whereas 40 years ago people were sick for 15 months before they died, but now because of lifesaving medication, they’re sick for 15 years before passing. Not really healthier.

  2. Wayne Robinson

    It’s the ecology fallacy in asserting that since the consumption of sugar is decreasing and the incidence of obesity is increasing, that dietary sugar has no influence on obesity.

    It’s assuming that the characteristics of a population as a whole (average sugar consumption) applies to a segment of the population (the obese).

    It could be true. To assess it, you’d need to look at the sugar consumption in the obese and compare it to that in the non-obese.

  3. Brett Forge

    This is a very tabloid article most unlike BK’s usual excellent output. Reference to ‘nanny-statists’ in the first article is so similar to Andrew Bolt and his use of the word ‘warmist’ to discredit an entire body of science. The sugar issue is complex and multifactorial, this glib over simplified article does it little credit. Obesity starts in childhood and the die is often cast then. It is then decades before the slightly overweight child becomes obese, burdened with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol hypertension, then heart disease and stroke. Soft drinks contribute around 10% to obesity overall, so introducing a sugar tax on drinks will only be a small part of the problem, and will be undetectable in crude population statistics. The benefits would not be seen for many years or even decades. Whilst we have amazingly good life expectancy there are signs that the ever increasing survival is soon to start reversing as the epidemic of diabetes comes through. An earlier reader linked to the excellent Grattan report on this issue and if anyone wants to understand the issue please read this at At the very least a sugar tax on soft drinks will send a signal and will raise an estimated $500M which can go towards the ever mounting costs of treating the related diseases. A very strong message needs to be sent to children and their parents that refreshing their thirst with a can of soft drink containing 13 teaspoons of refined sugar is bloody stupid.

    1. Draco Houston

      “Reference to ‘nanny-statists’ in the first article is so similar to Andrew Bolt and his use of the word ‘warmist’ to discredit an entire body of science.”

      What’s next, if you don’t like regressive sin taxes on consumption you’re literally Hitler?

    2. Zeke

      The trouble with reducing soft drink consumption is that people replace soft drink with fruit juice, which sometimes has even more carbohydrates (in the form of fructose) than soft drinks. It’s a lie that fruit juice is healthy. Eating your daily intake of fruit is healthy but drinking fruit juice is not. The best part of the fruit is thrown away, wasted.

      If we want a healthy population we need to severely tax advertising for bad food and subsidize advertising for healthy food and lifestyles. We need to promote diet and exercise, the only “cure” for obesity and stop the endless procession of quack fad diets and foods.

      Reduce the food you eat and increase your exercise. It’s not complicated.. it’s just hard work and commitment. I exercise and I eat a healthy diet. I drink water to rehydrate, many times a day. When I drink tea or coffee it is without sugar or milk. I keep my alcohol intake below 7 drinks a week. I’m fairly fit for a 60 year old. I run 6km every day as well as other exercise. It took 10 years of commitment to get me here but to be healthy is to be the richest person on Earth.

      It still requires a massive effort of will to get me out for exercise every morning but the alternative is fatness, sickness and depression.

  4. Wade Smith

    It’s interesting that every time Bernard Keane writes on this issue he says ‘nanny state’ about ten times and quotes Jennie Brand-Miller. It’s his safe place in this argument; whereas on most issues Mr Keane is open-minded, analytical and keen to get to the truth, on this matter he prefers a few tired and discredited arguments.

    To be honest, I would not believe a word Jennie Brand-Miller says. Her research has been completely debunked (see and, and when asked why she wrote a paper with such dodgy stats she basically said (paraphrasing): “well, everyone says sugar consumption is going up, but we wanted to present a different view”.

    Huh? That sounds less like the work of a scientist and more like that of a radio shock-jock. Forget evidence – let’s just say something controversial!

    Bernard, I think you need to rethink this one.

  5. old greybearded one

    As I said yesterday we will not know, because the sugar levels will not make a diffenrece overnight. But BK is right on one thing, we need to get the sugar out of the everyday food where there is no need for it at all. There is a power of sugar in low fat food, we’d be better off with the fat.

  6. old greybearded one

    Ah! BK has swallowed the advertising I think.

  7. Woopwoop

    Bernard, I know you have some deep-seated aversion to the “nanny state’, but please don’t use this discredited “research” to try to get the adults to stop bossing you around. It’s shonky:

  8. AR

    It’s sad enough that BK gets his rocks off wallowing in this nonsense but it is cruel of Crikey to allow him to so publicly humiliate himself.

  9. dennis

    Was a battle to lose weight for the last 14 years, got to 137 kgs one part, had a lap band got down to 133 kgs, got serious about exercise, got down to 127 kgs, was doing all the things, and trying hard, to do what the dietitians and doctors required of me, got plenty of chastising by these people, also had type 2 diabetes for the 14 or so years, on medication, plenty of it, was to go on insulin, I refused, HbA1c, was riding at 8.3mmol/l with Metaformin, although cholesterol never got much above 6. triglycerides were 2.3, heart attack figures.
    November of 2016 found to have aggressive malignant melanoma on right side temple. So got to 125 kgs, then in March 2017 came across low carb down under on you tube, so on April 14th started, went cold turkey on sugar and all carbohydrates, lost 10 kgs without even trying in first 3 1/2 weeks, so was worth it, now at the 6 th of Feb 2018 i am 98 kgs, I can run again, I walk 5 klms without even thinking, I walk up a 800 meter 2.4 Klm climb called Mt Baldy on the Atherton Tablelands, I am young again, @ 70 in April, 2018, HbA1c, now 6, cholesterol 3.3 got to get it higher now, and triglycerides 1.3, this to me was an experiment, i had nothing to lose, still haven’t, My new Doctor is right behind me, all the way, only way to find out was to do it, so far so good, a lot better than the last 17 or so years, so you tell me, Sugar and carbohydrates, and any “Vegetable oil” shove it fair up your asses.

  10. dennis

    Oh re my comment about lap band, it was removed in mid 2016 due to tissue growing around it, so had argument with doctor an won my argument and had it removed.

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