by Aaron Tabor
, MD Diet & Anti-Aging Expert
There remains a lot of debate over whether various food pricing strategies can help individuals develop better eating habits and reduce their risk of becoming overweight or obese. While studies have suggested that increasing the price of unhealthy foods can improve diet quality, other studies have reported that consumers prefer that healthy foods get discounted rather than see an increase in the cost of unhealthy foods.
A recent nutrition research study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Nutrition explored the relationship between food prices, fast food consumption, and diet quality among U.S. children. Fast food prices and fruit and vegetable prices were examined in relationship to their dietary consumption by over 6,500 young children and over 1,500 teens who took part in the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals. While relationships in teens were inconsistent according to the researchers, observations in young children showed that:
- Higher fast food prices were linked to lower consumption of fast foods, higher intakes of dietary fiber, higher calcium consumption, higher dairy consumption, higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, and an improved overall healthy eating index.
- Lower costs of fruits and vegetables were linked to greater fiber consumption and reduced body mass index.
Overall, this newest study continues to suggest that food prices can impact diet quality and childhood obesity. This particular study suggests that increasing the cost of fast foods reduces the consumption of these foods and increases dietary quality of U.S. children. This study also points out that the high cost of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables is linked to a higher body mass index. Unfortunately, the cost of healthy foods appears to still be increasing. A recent Australian study reported that while healthy eating still requires about 30% of a family's income, the cost of healthy foods continues to rise
. In fact, from 2000 - 2009 the cost of vegetables rose by about 40% and the cost of fruit rose by 64% in Australia. Another study reports that the cost of nutrient dense foods (more healthy) in Seattle, Washington increased by 29% between 2004 - 2008, while the cost of foods with a low nutrient density (less healthy) only increased by 16% over the same time span with the cost of the most nutritious foods being about 9 times greater than the least nutritious foods
These studies make it clear that in general healthier foods cost quite a bit more than less nutritious foods and that various pricing strategies like increasing the cost of less nutritious foods and decreasing the cost of healthy foods can impact dietary quality. While taking both approaches might have the best overall effect of improving our eating habits and reducing our risk for becoming overweight or obese, any increase in food prices will probably not be well received by any of us. Finding the best and least costly approach to improving the quality of our diets will take a lot of work and almost certainly won't happen right away. In the meantime, look for nutrient dense foods that fit your budget and try to minimize the amount of energy dense foods in your diet.
Aaron Tabor, MD
Diet, Anti-Aging, and Nutritional Cosmetic Expert
Author of Dr. Tabor’s Diet
and FIGHT NOW
Learn more about Dr. Tabor’s diet and anti-aging research at www.DrTabor.com