Tax sugar now: this is the battlecry of diabetes experts last Thursday in the continuing fight against obesity and diabetes.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF), ahead of a G20 leaders' meeting happening this weekend, wanted obesity and diabetes - both growing concerns worldwide - to be placed on the global agenda. According to them, governments should target diabetes risk factors and adopt fiscal policies on unhealthy food, channeling the revenues toward type 2 diabetes prevention and healthcare.

IDF chief executive Petra Wilson is pushing for a tax on sodas and other sugary beverages.

"It is very well established that heavy taxation on tobacco and relentless reinforcement of the message that tobacco is unhealthy has had a very good effect," Wilson said, urging a similar approach with sugar.

Wilson recognized more barriers in sugar taxation than in tobacco, as people cannot survive completely without sugar. "[But they] can live without added sugars," she stressed.

Mexico, France, and Chile are among the countries that have already implemented sugar taxation in varying forms, and they continue to face opposition from groups such as the food industry. In Mexico, for instance, lawmakers are calling for slashing the sugar tax into half.

New data from the IDF, released at a World Diabetes Day event in Brussels, Belgium, last Nov. 11, showed that 415 million adults now have diabetes, with 318 million more at risk. By 2040, one in 10 persons is projected to develop the disease, which gets about five to 20 percent of different countries' healthcare funds.

A staggering 90 percent of all diabetes cases globally are type 2 diabetes, which is strongly linked to unhealthy living. About 75 percent of diabetes patients reside in developing countries confronted by rapid urbanization and shifts toward unhealthy diets and lifestyles, added IDF.

Going into the meeting of G20 leaders in Turkey from Nov. 15 to 16, Wilson emphasized the need to address type 2 diabetes and better manage both type 1 and type 2 to save not only people's health but also nations' economies.

"A co-operative response from the G20 governments, which has been key in reacting to the global financial crisis, is also essential," she added.

Middle East and North Africa are identified as worst hit, with adult diabetes expected to increase more than two-fold by 2040 and the regional rate climbing to 11.4 percent from 9.1 percent.

A sharp increase is also estimated in South and Central America, feared to have one diabetic in eight adults after a projected 65 percent rise in cases.

In the United States - where diabetes mortality is higher than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined - total healthcare budget for the illness in 2015 is seen to increase to $802 billion by 2040 from the current $673 billion.

Photo: Coralie Ferreira | Flickr

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