Mayor Kenney's proposed tax on sugary soft drinks is designed to raise money for several ambitious plans, including universal pre-kindergarten. If the tax is approved by City Council (and survives challenges from the soda industry), reduced consumption might mean not just more money for Philadelphia, but fewer health problems, too, in the following areas:
Obesity. Sugary drinks are major culprits in the obesity epidemic. Non-diet soda, sweetened ice teas, and sports and energy drinks can have 16 teaspoons or more in just one 20-ounce serving. According to the New York City Department of Public Health, drinking one can of soda a day can make you 10 pounds fatter in a year. One in every 100 deaths from obesity-related diseases is linked to sugary beverages, according to a 2015 study published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.
Diabetes. Sugary drinks can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes independent of obesity, due to excessive calories and large amounts of rapidly absorbed sugars, according to a 2015 study in BMJ, the British medical journal. Over time, the sugar spikes can overload the pancreas and liver, leading to diabetes, found the authors of a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
And diabetes is the single largest cause of death associated with sugary drinks, according to an analysis last year in Circulation that linked 184,000 deaths a year worldwide to the beverages.
Heart disease. Consuming one or two servings a day of a sugar-sweetened beverage is linked to a 35 percent greater risk of heart attack or fatal heart disease and a 16 percent increased risk of stroke, according to a 2012 study in Circulation.
Gout. The painful joint condition is linked to sugar-sweetened beverages, because fructose elevates uric acid levels. Uric acid is usually filtered by the kidneys and excreted, but when it builds up in the blood, it can cause crystals to form in the joints, according to a 2013 report in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.
Tooth decay and erosion. Sugary drinks put children at high risk for dental cavities. Bacteria found inside the mouth produce acid as they eat away at leftover sugar. The acid erodes the enamel on teeth, making them weaker, according to a 2009 review.
Sugar high. Consuming sugar can be addictive, according to 2005 study on rats published in the journal Neuroscience. Bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which triggers cravings, and a tendency to "self-soothe" with food, and in some circumstances leads to sugar dependency, according to a 2008 study in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.
Health-care costs. Nine percent of all medical spending goes to treat conditions associated with obesity and being overweight. Estimated cost to treat those ailments in 2008 was $147 billion. Half of that tab was paid for by the American public through Medicare and Medicaid, according to a report in Health Affairs.
And another thing. If all this has you considering a switch to diet sodas, which are not targeted by the proposed tax, think again. Studies indicate sugar-free sodas are as likely to be linked to higher heart risks, strokes, and a condition that precedes diabetes: the development of metabolic syndrome. Symptoms include high blood pressure, excess belly fat, high triglycerides, and low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, according to the Harvard Health Letter.