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Taming Canada's sweet tooth could have saved the economy up to $5 billion: U of A study – Edmonton Journal

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The results of a study published Wednesday in the Canadian Journal of Public Health estimate that if Canadians reduce their consumption of “free sugar” to less than 10 per cent of their total energy intake in 2019, it could have saved $2.5 billion in health care and other costs.

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Cutting sugar consumption could save Canada’s economy billions, but simply taxing sweetened drinks may not be the best way to change consumer tastes, University of Alberta research suggests.

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The results of a study published Wednesday in the Canadian Journal of Public Health estimate that if Canadians reduce their consumption of “free sugar” — sugar added to food and drink or naturally occurring in syrups, honey or fruit juice — to less than 10 per cent of their total energy intake in 2019, it could have saved $2.5 billion in health care and other costs.

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Those savings reach $5 billion by cutting free sugar consumption to less than five per cent, the study added.

Paul J. Veugelers, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the university’s school of public health, said those figures include not just the direct health-care costs of chronic diseases related to excess sugar consumption — such as diabetes, various cancers and chronic kidney disease — they also include indirect, productivity costs due to illness and disability.

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“We call that ‘loss of human capital,’” said Veugelers, the study’s principal investigator. “Because people get sick, cannot go to work, and they die too early.”

The study used sugar consumption data from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey, which members of the research team used in 2020 to learn that nearly two-thirds of Canadians ate more than the recommended amount of free sugar. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests limiting sugar consumption to less than 10 per cent (and ideally less than five per cent) of total energy intake.

While it’s difficult to quantify the WHO’s recommendation for the average person, since everyone’s energy intake is going to be different and depends on how much a person consumes, Veugelers recommends exercising a little common sense when it comes to phasing out free sugars.

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“Be a conscious consumer,” he said. “You know which products are sweet — start there.”

Paul Veugelers, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Alberta’s school of public health. supplied
Paul Veugelers, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Alberta’s school of public health. supplied

To reduce sugar consumption and the economic consequences of related chronic disease, the study recommends interventions such as taxes, subsidies and education to help change consumption patterns.

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is trying something along those lines in September, when it plans to impose a tax on sugar sweetened beverages. But Veugelers said a levy on drinks alone may not be sufficient since, as the study notes, they only account for 17 per cent of free sugar consumption in Canada.

“Ideally we would put a tax on all sugar, not just sugar-sweetened beverages,” he said. “And the revenue from all that should be put towards subsidies of other, healthful food items so that, on balance, the food is not going to be more expensive for the consumer, and we achieve a shift in the choice of food.”

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The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need to act sooner than later, Veugelers added, since reports show adverse affects on Canadian lifestyles such as increased consumption of unhealthy food and less physical activity.

Early in the pandemic, Statistics Canada surveys found an increasing number of respondents were eating junk food and sweets, spending time on the internet and playing video games.

In September, the agency reported just over 32 per cent of youths between the ages of 12 and 17 met Canadian physical activity recommendations in fall 2020 — down from nearly 51 per cent in fall 2018.

hissawi@postmedia.com

@hamdiissawi

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Economy

China Economic Activity Rebounds With Reopening From Covid Zero, CNY Holiday – Bloomberg

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China Economic Activity Rebounds With Reopening From Covid Zero, CNY Holiday  Bloomberg

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Economy

Canada's economy slowed down in November, but still eked out growth – CBC.ca

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Business

The Canadian economy grew by 0.1 per cent in November as higher interest rates began to slow spending toward the end of the year.

Service sector expanded even as goods producing industries contracted

Canada’s gross domestic product expanded by 0.1 per cent in November, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Canadian economy grew by 0.1 per cent in November as higher interest rates began to slow spending toward the end of the year.

Statistics Canada’s preliminary estimate for December indicates the economy stayed flat, suggesting the economy grew at an annualized rate of 1.6 per cent in the fourth quarter.

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The economy grew at an annualized rate of 2.9 per cent in the third quarter.

In November, growth in real domestic product was driven by the public sector, transportation and warehousing and finance and insurance.

Meanwhile, construction, retail and accommodation and food services contracted.

Statistics Canada says economic growth for 2022 was an estimated 3.8 per cent.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nojoud Al Mallees covers economics for The Canadian Press. She’s based in Ottawa.

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Economy

IMF Raises World Economic Outlook for the First Time in a Year – Bloomberg

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IMF Raises World Economic Outlook for the First Time in a Year  Bloomberg

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