Price increases by taxation of unhealthy foods have been proposed as a way to improve public health. There has been little research of the effect of food prices on food choices. In our society, healthy food tends to be expensive. This study was done by the authors to relate food prices, food usage, energy intake, weight increases and insulin resistance. This study was based on the CARDIA study of the causes of cardiovascular disease.
Prices were studied for the period of time of the CARDIA study (1985-2006). The price of milk increased over that time. There was a 48% reduction of inflation adjusted price of soda and pizza over the years of the study. A 10% increase in price of a soda would reduce the probability of consuming soda by 3%.
If the prices of food are increased, the usage is usually found to be reduced. An increase of $1.00 in the price of soda or pizza caused more people to shift to the consumption of other energy foods, reduced overall energy intakes, lowered weights and reduced patient insulin resistance over this 20-year study.
Adolescents are more sensitive than adults to price increases of tobacco and they are expected to be more sensitive to price increases in soda drinks and fast foods.
Specific food use declines as prices go up. Taxes which increase the prices of soda and pizza might cause people to make more healthy dietary choices. The authors estimate that an 18% tax would reduce energy consumption by 56 kcal in young and middle-aged adults, with a 5 lb. annual loss of weight and a significant reduction in chronic diseases for a large number of people.
CONCLUSION: Statistical studies show that taxes on less healthy foods are likely to result in reduced use of these products due to the higher prices. This could be done at national, state and local levels and would be likely to have beneficial long-term health benefits for the whole population.
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