Nightly News   |  March 08, 2010

Junk food price hikes could curb appetites

A new study suggesting that raising the prices of soda and pizza could steer adults toward a more healthful diet may prove useful to health policymakers. NBC's Robert Bazell reports.

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>> stand. richard, thanks.

>>> now to health news tonight, and a question that also involves politics. is a new tax in this case a tax on sweet soft drinks the best way to try to prevent childhood obesity ? as we hear from our chief science correspondent robert bazell , a new study just out is adding fuel to this controversy over a proposal to encourage americans to cut their consumption.

>> reporter: when it comes to sugared soft drinks , if people pay more, will they drink less? a study out today followed more than 5,000 young adults for 20 years. lots of research has shown that sugared drinks can increase the risk for obesity and diabetes. today's study found that when the price goes up, people drink a lot less.

>> the effect is huge, if we increase it 18%, the around adult will reduce about five pounds a year, and a very large reduction in their risk of diabetes. these are very important in terms of long term health.

>> are we ready?

>> the mayors of new york and philadelphia have proposed a tax on sugared drinks, citing health concerns and budget deficits . the new york proposal has led to dualing tv ads.

>> over 10 million new yorkers are dangerously overweight. by adding penny dozen sugary sodas and drinks, we can help reduce obesity.

>> when i heard they wanted to implement a tax on juice drinks and sodas this is another way to get into our pockets.

>> the american beverage association does not think a tax on beverages will solve a complex problem like obesity. the tax won't work.

>> reporter: the president of the beverage association appeared today with former president clinton to taut the effectiveness of a voluntary effort to get sugared drinks out of schools. it has led to a 95% reduction in the amount of soft drinks consumed in schools since it started in 2004 . is a tax necessary to change behavior for those not in school?

>> i think it would lower my chances of ordering a soda if the taxes are higher.

>> i don't think it's going to make a difference if they increase taxes? at least it won't for me.

>> there's evidence that so-called syntax on cigarettes and alcohol reduce the use.

>> on a different topic, also having to do with health. something you told us in our newsroom meeting earlier today, the original hobson's choice for women on the subject of alcohol consumption .

>> well, the harvard women's nurse's health study has been following tens of thousands of women for decades. and their latest finding is that women who drink moderately have less of a chance of gaining weight overtime. now, having said that, alcohol's a complex thing, it decreases the risk of heart disease , increases the risk of breast cancer and can get you in all kinds of trouble if you overdo it. these study authors are not saying anybody should stop drinking to stop putting on weight.

>> robert bazell , as always, thank you.

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