Islamabad, (Parliament Times) : The excess consumption of sugary drinks is one of the major causes of obesity and its related diseases, increasing risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, liver and kidney damage, heart disease, and some types of cancers. This has been shared during the webinar organized by National Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat, Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives in collaboration with Global Health Advocacy Incubator, SUN Academia and Research Network and Pakistan National Heart Association. The speakers highlighted the harmful effects of sugar sweetened beverages on the health of people who regularly consume such drinks. The webinar was attended by representatives of academia and research institutions, policy think tanks, government departments, UN agencies, civil society organizations and media.
While speaking to the webinar, Mr. Nazeer Ahmed Deputy Chief/SUN Focal Point, Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives mentioned that obesity is rising in the country at alarming rates which is a gateway to Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs). He mentioned that we have the Ministry published Pakistan Dietary Guidelines for Better Nutrition in collaboration with all relevant government and non-government organizations. It provide clear guidelines about the dietary practice and healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Sumaira Nasim, Assistant Professor at Dow University of Health Sciences Karachi said that a single (330ml) can of soda contains more than 9 – 11 teaspoons of added sugar, which is almost equivalent of the maximum recommended daily intake by WHO. She said, early evidence indicates that Sugar Sweetened Beverages may have potentially addictive properties for adolescents and young adults.
Professor Dr. Shahzad Ali Khan, Head of the Department of Public Health at Health Services Academy Islamabad said, evidence from Mexico, India, Australia, South Africa, United Kingdom and other countries suggests that imposing tax on sugary drinks is an effective strategy to reduce its consumption. It will generate revenue for government which could be spent on sustainable health and nutrition programs.
He shared that Pakistanis are spending more than 525 billion annually on the purchase of sugary drinks.
Mr. Munawar Hussain, Consultant at Food Policy Program by Global Health Advocacy Incubators said that increased consumption of sugary drinks is a threat to national development due to increased health care costs and hospital expenditures, in addition to an unhealthier workforce.
Pakistan ranked the 4th highest burden of diabetes worldwide in 2019. These cases could significantly be prevented by reducing consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.
Mr. Sana Ullah Ghumman General Secretary PANAH, while speaking to the webinar requested Government to expedite the implementation of health levy bill. Mr. Ghumman said that the health levy bill covering tobacco and sugar sweetened beverages will generate more than 55 billion annually. This will be a win-win situation. The government will be able to fund sustainable health and nutrition programs with the revenue generated and people will be safe from further spread of the diseases caused by sugary drinks.
Mr. Badar Uzaman, Program Policy Officer at National SUN Secretariat Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives highlighted the objectives of the webinar. Dr. Irshad Danish Advocacy Advisor at Nutrition International highlighted the role of Academia and Research Institutions in reducing the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.