A 20% "fat tax" on unhealthy food and drink could help cut the number of people suffering from obesity and heart disease.
Such a move should be combined with subsidies on healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables, academics from bmj.com said.
The group released their findings ahead of the 65th World Health Assembly in Geneva where prevention and control of non-communicable diseases will be key issues for discussion.
Dr Oliver Mytton and colleagues at the University of Oxford said evidence suggests taxing a wide range of unhealthy foods is likely to result in greater health benefits than "narrow taxes" - although the strongest evidence related to taxing sugary drinks.
They said one American study found a 35% tax on sugar-sweetened drinks in a canteen led to a 26% decline in sales.
Studies extending VAT on unhealthy foods in the UK could cut up to 2,700 heart disease deaths a year, the researchers said.