"Sugar tax" key to tackling obesity epidemic: Australian doctors

CANBERRA, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- A coalition of Australia's most respected doctors' groups called for a tax on sugar on Friday.

They claim obesity, which is often brought on by excessive sugar consumption, is the most pressing public health issue in Australia.

In a six-point plan to tackle obesity, the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges, representing bodies including the Royal Australasian Colleges of Surgeons, Physicians and General Practitioners (GPs) recommend that obesity be classified as a chronic disease and a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks be introduced.

Nick Talley, head of the committee, said the government needed to tackle sugar over-use as a public health issue, in the same way it tackled smoking.

"We need leadership, not just telling people to lose weight," Talley told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

"With smoking and tobacco control, we took risks and it had a dramatic effect."

Talley said obesity was a "real disease, not simply a lifestyle choice."

The committee has also called for targeted training for medical professionals to ensure a focus on nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention as well as better treatment options for obesity.

Bastian Seidel, president of the Royal Australasian College of GPs, said the medical profession would lead the way by offering healthier food choices to staff in hospitals, medical colleges and universities and restricting the access to sugar-sweetened drinks.

"We need to live by the advice that we are giving to our patients," Seidel told the ABC.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in October urged countries to adopt a 20-percent tax on sugary drinks, saying that tooth decay and obesity would be reduced by lowering sugar intake.

Director of the Menzies Centre for Health Police at the University of Sydney, Andrew Wilson, said that 11.2 million Australian adults, or 66 percent of the population, were obese or overweight.

"It is critical that we do something to overcome the inaction on obesity," Wilson said.

Research published in October revealed that Australians were consuming an average of 16 teaspoons of added sugar every day, more than double the amount recommended by WHO.

[ Editor:yfs001]

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