A "Fat tax" on salty, sugary and fatty foods could save thousands of lives in Britain each year, according to a study published Wednesday.

Researchers at Oxford University say that charging Value Added Tax (VAT) at 17.5 percent on foods deemed to be unhealthy would cut consumer demand and reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes.

The purchase tax is already levied on a small number of products such as potato crisps, ice cream, confectionery and chocolate biscuits, but most food is exempt.

The move could save an estimated 3,200 lives in Britain each year, according to the study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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"A well-designed and carefully-targeted fat tax could be a useful tool for reducing the burden of food-related disease," the study concluded.