Fat tax would lead majority of Kiwis to eat less fast food, survey indicates

Diabetes patient Felila Taupau has lost more than 10kg since using a Diabetes NZ "toolkit" of advice. Photo / Diabetes New Zealand
Diabetes patient Felila Taupau has lost more than 10kg since using a Diabetes NZ "toolkit" of advice. Photo / Diabetes New Zealand

Nearly three-quarters of Kiwi fast-food consumers would trim their intake if the Government imposed a fat tax, a survey suggests.

Fourteen per cent said they would quit fast food under a fat tax, according to the Perceptive Research survey of 1004 people done in September for Diabetes NZ.

The support group has declared November to be "diabetes action month", to help people cope with the disease and to draw attention to what it says is New Zealand's fastest-growing health crisis.

It says forty people a day are diagnosed with diabetes.

"More than 260,000 people in New Zealand have diabetes; the prevalence has doubled in the past 10 years."

Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and New Zealand's rate of obesity, at 31 per cent, more than triple what it was in the 1970s, continues to grow.

The survey also asked about views on a tax on fizzy sugar drinks. It found 39 per cent said they would change their fizzy drinking habits with a tax.

Nineteen per cent said they might buy the drinks less often with a 20 per cent tax. A further 20 per cent might alter their buying habits with a 25 per cent tax.

An earlier survey by the Southern Cross Health Society found more than a third of Kiwis believed fizzy and other sugary drinks should be taxed.

Diabetes NZ is today launching what it says is a comprehensive online support and self-management "toolkit".

"There is a real need to help people with diabetes to live well," said chief executive Steve Crew.

"The reality of diabetes and the complications associated with it, can be consuming. It is not only a drain on our health system, it is incredibly life-changing and life-limiting for people living with diabetes - and that can lead to stress and anxiety and poor self-care."

The survey asked questions about diabetes of people who have the disease. It found that fewer than half felt in control of their condition, and a third said it had a negative effect on their mental wellbeing.

"Living well is something people with diabetes battle to do on their own," Crew said.

"A third struggle with eating healthy meals, and almost 40 per cent struggle to be motivated and do physical activity. Diabetes New Zealand wants to change that."

The "Take Control" toolkit will offer a range of more than 60 online materials in downloadable print or video formats, that Diabetes New Zealand members can access. It will contain advice and information across in three categories: Food & Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Health & Wellbeing.

There will also be tools for friends and loved ones supporting someone with diabetes, ways to involve the family, as well as recipes - including some from NZ MasterChef winner Brett MacGregor - and short physical activity workouts featuring Shortland Street cast, to do in the TV ad breaks.

Over the past eight weeks, in the lead up to Diabetes Action Month, a small group of people with diabetes had been the first to use the toolkit, and the results were encouraging, Crew said.

The 12 people - 10 with type 2 diabetes, one with prediabetes and one with type 1 diabetes, an auto-immune disorder - have committed to using the toolkit for 12 weeks. They have had fitness and medical assessments done at the beginning, and the half-way points, and their physical activity is being monitored through wearing Fitbit activity trackers.

Already they had felt empowered to make significant behavioural changes - "and, importantly, lifestyle improvements", Crew said.

All had reported increasing their physical activity, upping their fruit and vegetable intake while monitoring their carbs and reducing portion sizes. They had either reduced or are reducing junk food and swapped sugary drinks for water.

Felila Taupau

Taupau, aged 38, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes three months ago.

"I did a weight loss challenge and found out in that month that I had diabetes. It hit me, because my mum died from diabetes. I wanted to see if the toolkit would help me understand it and control it.

"The fridge used to be full of fizzy every week but we drink water now. The kids will have frozen coke now and then but not as much as we used to do. We love our veges, I always try to feed my children vegetables now. We do lots more activity as a family and the kids are always asking how much steps are going and asking about diabetes and so we are all learning about it.

"I have lost more than 10kg since using the toolkit, I get up early every day and make sure I do 10,000 and sometimes 15,000 steps. I used to think that diabetes ran in the family so I couldn't change it. Now I know different."

Sugar-drink tax
• 39 per cent of New Zealanders would change their fizzy drink habits with a sugar tax.
• 19 per cent might buy fizzy drinks less often with a 20 per cent tax. A further 20 per cent might alter their buying habits with a 25 per cent tax.
• 36 per cent said a 50 per cent tax might alter their buying habits.

Fast-food fat tax
• 73 per cent of fast food buyers might reduce their buying frequency with a fat tax.
• 14 per cent would stop buying altogether with a fat tax.
• 24 per cent said a 20 per cent tax might alter their buying habits. A further 28 per cent said the tax would need to be 25 per cent.
Source: Perceptive Research survey of 1004 people in September

- NZ Herald

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