Sugar – what you need to know

Sugar – what you need to know

Women: 63% are overweight, the highest obesity rate in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Government is set to apply a tax of about 11% on certain sugary drinks later this year. No such tax will apply to artificially sweetened “light” drinks or plain bottled water, which will become a cheaper option for consumers.

The tax has been introduced not to increase revenue, but to reduce national consumption of sugary drinks as part of a national obesity prevention campaign.

  • These drinks are a source of highly concentrated sugar and sugar is a major cause of obesity. v
  • Obesity is a well-established risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, strokes and certain cancers.
  • These non-communicable diseases are running rife in South Africa and are a major cause of disability and death.

South Africa is one of the world’s top 10 consumers of sugary drinks and consumption has been growing at about 3% a year. Recent growth has been highest among low-income households, the All Media Products Survey shows.

Why should you, as a woman, care about this tax?

Diabetes has become the number one cause of death among South African women and the second most common cause of death in the total population, according to Stats SA. Diabetes is a complex disease and its causes are multiple. However, the increase in diabetes in our country is unquestionably linked to the increase in obesity, particularly among women.

  • South African women have the highest obesity rate in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • 63% of South African women are overweight or obese, compared to 51% of women globally.
  • 82% of South African women are overweight by the time they reach the age of 45 years.
  • Women living in urban areas have a higher likelihood of becoming obese, compared to those in rural communities.

Obesity is a risk factor for several life-altering health conditions Obesity is the underlying cause for the steeply increasing cases of hypertension, cerebrovascular diseases (which include strokes) and heart disease.

The development and recurrence of endometrial cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer and other types can be attributed, in part, to obesity. Other conditions that overweight and obese women suffer from are low back pain and knee osteo-arthritis.

What difference will it make to reduce sugary drinks intake?

Reducing the population’s intake of sugary drinks won’t, on its own, solve the obesity and non-communicable disease epidemics. But global research shows that it will have a significant impact in reducing and preventing these diseases.

Addressing the high consumption of sugary drinks in South Africa is a key starting point to tackling obesity prevention. The tax on sugary drinks is a powerful but simple way to discourage consumption of one of the strongest drivers of obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases – and, of course, tooth decay.

  • Sugary drinks are a major cause of increased calorie intake, weight gain, diabetes, hypertension and other diseases.
  • These calories are “empty” – they have no nutritional benefit– and people don’t count the calories in drinks the way they count calories in food, which can lead to overconsumption and weight gain.
  • The sugars in sugary drinks are concentrated (an average of nine teaspoons per 330ml can) and alter the body’s metabolism, affecting insulin, cholesterol and metabolites that cause high blood pressure and inflammation.
  • Large amounts of liquid sugar are especially harmful to the liver because they are quickly absorbed.

For more information, please visit




today in print