sweet snacks workplace wellness

Sweet Snacks: Should They be Treated Like Sugar-Sweetened Beverages?

As nutrition continues to play a significant role in well-run workplace wellness programs, a new study takes a look at an overlooked culprit: Sweet snacks.

We have reported on the negative effects of sugar-sweetened beverages — and on some of the systematic efforts to reduce the amount people drink.

And it seems the efforts work.

We noted a MedPage Today report that “U.S. Adults, Kids Put Down The Sugary Drinks: Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption down, water intake up.” The piece is based on a study published in Obesity titled “Trends in Beverage Consumption Among Children and Adults, 2003-2014.

MedPage: “Healthier beverage choices are becoming more popular among the U.S. population, a new study found.”

“Between 2003 to 2014, per capita consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages significantly dropped among adults (190.4 calories versus 137.6, P<0.001) and children (224.6 calories versus 132.5, P<0.001), according to Sara N. Bleich, PhD, of Harvard T.H., Chan School of Public Health at Harvard College in Boston, and colleagues.”

MedPage continues: “The proportion of daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) also significantly changed during this time. The percentage of adults who reported daily sugar-sweetened beverage intake dropped from 61.5% to 50.0%, and similarly dropped from 79.7% to 60.7% among children.”

Now a new study indicates a similar approach might work on another workplace wellness culprit: Sweet snacks.

The study is published in the British Medical Journal and titled “Are sweet snacks more sensitive to price increases than sugar-sweetened beverages: analysis of British food purchase data.”

Its objective: “Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is now advocated, and implemented, in many countries as a measure to reduce the purchase and consumption of sugar to tackle obesity. To date, there has been little consideration of the potential impact that such a measure could have if extended to other sweet foods, such as confectionery, cakes and biscuits that contribute more sugar to the diet than SSBs. The objective of this study is to compare changes in the demand for sweet snacks and SSBs arising from potential price increases.”

The study notes the important connections to obesity and related chronic diseases: “With the global prevalence of obesity and associated health risks continuing to increase, health-related taxes have become an established policy option intended to reduce energy intake. Most of these have focused on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) due to their consistent association with energy intake, weight gain, risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as dental caries.”

“In the USA, six local jurisdictions have a tax on sugary beverages implemented due to health concerns.”

And these efforts to raise awareness and increase economic costs seem to work.

The authors state that “research to date suggests that increasing the price of SSBs generates a small, but significant, reduction in their purchase (broadly, a 10% price rise reduces purchases by 6%–8%), with a more pronounced effect in poorer households and that substitution towards other soft drink categories only minimally offsets the energy reductions achieved through decreases in SSBs.”

“However, there has been little research on the impact such a price increase could have on other contributors to sugar and energy intake, including alcohol18 and sweet snack foods (such as confectionery, cakes and biscuits). With the apparent success of fiscal measures to increase the price of SSBs, it would be useful to establish whether a similar, or possibly greater, effect on consumption of snack foods could be obtained from a similar price change.”

The research available through the study “is the first to provide a direct analysis of the relationship between price increases and demand for sweet snack foods, within the context of demand for soft drink and alcoholic drink purchases, across different income groups.”

Tomorrow we’ll address the study and results.