Renewed calls for sugar tax as research finds Kiwis more addicted to sugary drinks than ever

Kiwis are addicted to sugary drinks more than ever before, according to research carried out by the University of Auckland.

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University of Auckland researcher Dr Simon Thornley joined Breakfast to explain the researchers’ findings. Source: Breakfast

The research also found that sugary drinks are worse for us than sugar in food, leading for experts to renew calls for a sugar tax.

Sugar was found to be more harmful in drinks than in food as the fructose turns into triglyceride, a "fatty substance" which "invades some of the body organs", leading Kiwis "down the road to diabetes", rotting teeth, heart attacks and cardiovascular disease - a "massive problem in this country," University of Auckland researcher Dr Simon Thornley explained on TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

Dr Thomley said sugar was "the biggest issue for nutrition in New Zealand."

"If we really want to address one thing in the New Zealand food supply, it's sugar, and particularly, sugary drinks."

He said researchers think the Government has "stalled on this issue."

"They've told us it’s a problem, they tell us it’s a priority, they tell us that they’re working with the food industry, but we haven’t seen any material change," Dr Thomley explained. "The food industry's own figures show that sugary drink consumption’s actually increasing."

"They see a parallel with tobacco. We knew tobacco was a problem in the '60s, but it wasn’t until the price rose and we took action as a country by taxing the stuff, that smoking started to fall, and we think we need to do the same thing for sugary drinks."

He said the Government "absolutely" needs to bring in a sugar tax to curb the consumption of sugary drink similar to the one currently being enforced in the UK.

"It sends a clear message to the producers of sugary drinks that if you want to avoid the tax, you need to reduce the sugar content."

Dr Thomley said while the effects of increased sugar consumption is well-known in academia, we "don't seem to have prioritised this as a country."

"[We're] putting a fence to the top of the cliff, rather than dealing with the carnage at the bottom."