Wednesday January 23, 2019

Taxes on soft drinks, alcohol most beneficial to poor: Lancet

The study helps counter fears that such taxes will necessarily disproportionately harm the poor

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What Causes Alcohol Addiction?
What Causes Alcohol Addiction? (IANS)

Taxes on unhealthy products like soft drinks, alcohol and tobacco, have the potential to produce major health gains among the poorest in society who are disproportionately affected by diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, researchers suggest.

The study helps counter fears that such taxes will necessarily disproportionately harm the poor. In a series of five papers published in the The Lancet, the researchers argued that taxes are a powerful response to rising rates of chronic diseases and an inescapable solution to tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — stroke, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and cancer.

Cold drinks can cause tooth decay, obesity, etc. Wikimedia Commons
Cold drinks’ price rise will benefit poor too. Wikimedia Commons

NCDs are responsible for 38 million deaths each year, 16 million of these are among people aged under 70 and “are a major cause and consequence of poverty worldwide”.

“Responding to this challenge means big investments to improve health care systems worldwide, but there are immediate and effective tools at our disposal,” said Rachel Nugent from the RTI International in the US.

“Taxes on unhealthy products can produce major health gains, and the evidence shows these can be implemented fairly, without disproportionately harming the poorest in society,” she added.

The findings showed that high income households generally consume more, and spend more, on alcohol, soft drinks and snacks, compared to low income households, while patterns for tobacco are less consistent. In India, wealthier households spent seven times more on alcohol and three times more on soft drinks and snacks compared to poorer households.

Also Read: 12 things you must know about cold drinks in India

Increased taxes on unhealthy products will therefore affect a larger number of high-income households than low-income households, meaning that the revenues generated by taxes will come disproportionately from high income households. The analysis is based on data from 13 countries – Chile, Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, Albania, Poland, Turkey, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Niger, Nigeria, India and Timor-Leste.

The study helps counter fears that such taxes will necessarily disproportionately harm the poor. “The evidence suggests that concerns about higher taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and soft drinks harming the poor are overstated. Price policies such as taxes will be a key part of the response to rising rates of non-communicable diseases,” Nugent added.

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Novel Hope for Stem Cell Approach to Treat Diabetes

'Another idea would be to use gene-editing tools to alter the genes of beta cells in ways that would allow them to 'hide' from the immune system after implantation.'

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Diabetes
Representational image. Pixabay

The researchers, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said that when they transplanted the beta cells into mice that could not make insulin, the new cells began secreting insulin within a few days, and they continued to control blood sugar in the animals for months.

‘We’ve been able to overcome a major weakness in the way these cells previously had been developed. The new insulin-producing cells react more quickly and appropriately when they encounter glucose,’ said lead author Jeffrey R. Millman, PhD, Assistant Professor.

‘The cells behave much more like beta cells in people who don’t have diabetes,’ he said.

For the study, published in the journal Stem Cell Reports, the team grew beta cells from human stem cells, but they made numerous changes to the ‘recipe’ for producing insulin-producing beta cells, treating the cells with different factors at different times as they grew and developed to help the cells mature and function more effectively.

Diabetes
Representational image. Pixabay

After that process was complete, the researchers transplanted the beta cells into diabetic mice with suppressed immune systems so that they wouldn’t reject the human cells.

Those transplanted cells produced insulin at levels that effectively controlled blood sugar in the mice, functionally curing their diabetes for several months, which, for most of the mice in the study, was about the length of their lives.

The researcher said he can’t predict exactly when such cells may be ready for human trials but believes there are at least two ways that stem cell-derived beta cells could be tested in human patients.

Also Read- Uber to Work on Autonomous Bikes, Scooters Option

‘The first would be to encapsulate the cells in something like a gel — with pores small enough to prevent immune cells from getting in but large enough to allow insulin to get out,’ he said.

‘Another idea would be to use gene-editing tools to alter the genes of beta cells in ways that would allow them to ‘hide’ from the immune system after implantation.’ (IANS)