The authors say further research with a longer follow-up is required to assess whether this is sustained. It had the greatest short and medium term impact in those restaurants with the highest pre-existing sales of sugary drinks.
'Evidence suggests that excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is an important contributor to these potentially life-threatening conditions but we still don't have a clear answer on how best to encourage people to consume fewer of them. Decreasing consumption of SSBs can reduce body weight and weight gain in children and adolescents.
In the United Kingdom, they are believed to account for up to half of the excess calories consumed per day by children, while adults consume an average of 50 calories per day from SSBs. Adults consume an average of 50 calories per day from SSBs1.
"Jamie Oliver isn't the only person to have been on TV pointing out the health consequences of too much sugar, and the general publicity that sugary drinks are bad for health is likely to have had some general effect on consumption", McConway said. Financial measures, alongside wider strategies, are one option but there is limited evidence on the effectiveness of such measures on either the sale or consumption of SSBs.
The Government's former obesity tsar, Professor Susan Jebb of the University of Oxford, said: 'This study provides the first evidence in the United Kingdom of the effects of a price rise on sales of sugar-sweetened beverages in a restaurant setting'. At the same time, the chain reorganised the non-alcoholic beverage menu into two sections: SSBs and "other" beverages which included fresh fruit juices, bottled waters and diet cola.
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"Our study showed that a combination of the levy, menu changes and clearly explaining to customers why it was introduced and that the proceeds would go directly to a worthy cause, looks to have had a relatively large effect on consumer behavior given the small size of the levy". Actually, it doesn't even establish that any of the specific changes at Jamie's Italian restaurants had anything to do with the lower consumption - for instance, the researchers had no data from any other restaurants, and maybe consumption fell there as well.
The drop in sales at six months of 9.3% was only in the restaurants that previously had higher levels of sales of sweetened drinks.
The study also found there was a general decrease in the numbers of non-alcoholic beverages sold per customer, with the exception of fruit juice, which increased by 22% after six months. Sales of diet cola and bottled waters also declined.
The tactic bodes well for the Government's own sugar tax, which is to be introduced on all sugar-sweetened drinks next April.
In the 12 months leading up to the introduction of the levy, more than 2m non-alcoholic drinks were sold in the 37 Jamie's Italian restaurants, of which 38% (773,230) were sugar sweetened.
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Dr Laura Cornelsen, Assistant Professor in Public Health Economics and MRC Career Development Fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, co-led the study.
But she said there was a disappointing lack of data on alcohol sales, which could have increased over the same period.
Experts said more research was needed to pin down what measures worked.
"Obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are among the most pressing global health challenges facing the world today".
The authors acknowledge limitations of their study including the fact that by taking advantage of a change that was already happening, they could only directly observe the changes that occurred, not necessarily the causes.
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The Jamie's Italian chain introduced the sugary drinks tax to set an example as part of a campaign to persuade the government to take action.