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Global patterns in price elasticities of sugar-sweetened beverage intake and potential effectiveness of tax policy: a cross-sectional study of 164 countries by sex, age and global-income decile
  1. Andrew Muhammad1,
  2. Birgit Meade2,
  3. David R Marquardt2,
  4. Dariush Mozaffarian3
  1. 1University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
  2. 2USDA Economic Research Service, Washington, DC, USA
  3. 3Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Andrew Muhammad; amuhammad{at}


Objective To quantify global relationships between sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) intake and prices and examine the potential effectiveness of tax policy.

Design SSB intake data by country, age and sex from the Global Dietary Database were combined with gross domestic product and price data from the World Bank. Intake responsiveness to income and prices was estimated accounting for national income, age and sex differences.

Setting 164 countries.

Population Full adult population in each country.

Main outcome measures A consumer demand modelling framework was used to estimate the relationship between SSB intake and prices and derive own-price elasticities (measures of percentage changes in intake from a 1% price change) globally by age and sex. We simulated how a 20% tax would impact SSB intake globally. Tax policy outcomes were examined across countries by global income decile for representative age and sex subgroups.

Results Own-price responsiveness was highest in lowest income countries, ranging from −0.70 (p<0.100) for women, age 50, to −1.91 (p<0.001) for men, age 80. In the highest income countries, responsiveness was as high as −0.49 (p<0.001) (men, age 20), but was mostly insignificant for older adults. Overall, elasticities were strongest (more negative) at the youngest and oldest age groups, and mostly insignificant for middle-aged adults, particularly in middle-income and high-income countries. Sex differences were mostly negligible. Potential intake reductions from a 20% tax in lowest income countries ranged from 14.5% (95% CI: 29.5%, −0.4%) in women, 35 ≤ age < 60, to 24.9% (44.4%, 5.3%) in men, age ≥60. Intake reductions decreased with country income overall, and were mostly insignificant for middle-aged adults.

Conclusions These findings estimate the global price-responsiveness of SSB intake by age and sex, informing ongoing policy discussions on potential effects of taxes.

  • demand
  • diet
  • elasticity
  • intake
  • global
  • prices
  • sugar-sweetened beverages
  • taxes

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  • Contributors AM conceptualised the study and was responsible for the study design, model estimations and contributed to the interpretation of results. AM, DM and BM contributed to the interpretation of results and discussion. DM wrote and edited sections describing the intake data. BM was primarily responsible for the literature review and facilitated the data agreement with the International Comparison Program, World Bank. DM provided the intake data and obtained the funding. DRM and AM were responsible for the visualisations and corresponding text. AM was the primary author, but all authors contributed to writing the manuscript. AM is the manuscript’s guarantor.

  • Funding The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (project: Global Dietary Habits among Women, Price and Income Elasticities and Validity of Food Balance Sheets).

  • Disclaimer The findings and conclusions in this publication are those of the author(s) and is not representative of official US Department of Agriculture or US Government determination or policy.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data available.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.