Friday, October 1, 2010

Healthy Food Options Are More Expensive Than Unhealthy Options In US: US Tariffs On Fruits And Vegetables And Sugar Subsidies Are A Cause Of US Obesity

One of the reasons for unhealthy eating in the US, excessive sugar consumption and insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables, is due to the higher cost of healthy foods, according to a recent nutritional study discussed below. Household affordability overrides nutritional education, the food pyramid, posted caloric count information, etc.

There is a logical, unstated strategy of this nutritional research that will promote healthy eating in the US and reduce obesity. The US government needs to undo US laws and policies that increase the cost of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and lower the costs of foods eaten in excess to unhealthy levels in in the US, such as sugars, carbohydrates and fats.

To effectively reduce obesity, the US needs to remove tariffs on imported fruits and vegetables to lower their costs to US consumers. The US also need to remove subsidies to US sugar producers, which lowers the price of sugar in the US. Additionally, since the poor are most affected by relative high food prices, modifying the Food Stamp Program to increase healthy eating, by either raising the income cutoff for this benefit, or by increasing the dollar amount of food stamps will increase healthy eating, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and decrease obesity.

From ScienceNews, "Pernicious influences on dietary choices: Many economic, sensory and lifestyle factors can subtly influence food consumption" by Janet Raloff:
... Adam Drewnowski of the University of Washington and his colleagues have for years been linking dietary choices and food costs. On a weight basis, grains and fats tend to be quite affordable. So it should come as no surprise, they’ve noted, that low-income families tend to rely on wheat, corn and fat as dietary staples at home — and the basis of entrees purchased in fast-food restaurants.

In a new paper, Drewnowski now analyzes the market prices for more than 1,375 foods on a per-calorie basis. Again, grains, sugars and fats were about the cheapest; fruits and veggies proved comparatively expensive. His findings appear in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, available online ahead of print.

“The fact that healthful foods cost more than less healthy options is a formidable real-world challenge for nutrition interventions,” he points out.
From the abstract of the Adam Drewnowski research paper, "The cost of US foods as related to their nutritive value" in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:
Results: Grains and fats food groups supplied the lowest-cost dietary energy. The energy cost for vegetables was higher than that for any other food group except for fruit. Serving sizes increased with water content and varied inversely with energy density of foods. The highest prices per serving were for meats, poultry, and fish, and the lowest prices per serving were for the fats category. Although carbohydrates, sugar, and fat were associated with lower price per 100 g, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals were associated with higher price per 100 g, after adjustment for energy.

Conclusions: Grains and sugars food groups were cheaper than vegetables and fruit per calorie and were cheaper than fruit per serving. These price differentials may help to explain why low-cost, energy-dense foods that are nutrient poor are associated with lower education and incomes.

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