BOSTON (March 1, 2017)—A new systematic review and meta-analysis finds that lowering the cost of healthy foods significantly increases their consumption, while raising the cost of unhealthy items significantly reduces their intake.
While everyone has a sense that food prices matter, the magnitude of impact of food taxes and subsidies on dietary intakes, and whether this varies by the food target, has not been clear. For the review, a team of researchers identified and pooled findings from a total of 30 interventional and longitudinal studies, including 11 that assessed the effect of higher prices (taxation) of unhealthy foods and 19 that assessed the effect of lower prices (subsidies) of healthy foods.
The findings were published in PLOS ONE on March 1.
“To date, evidence on effectiveness of fiscal policies on diet has mostly come from cross-sectional studies, which cannot infer causality. This is why we evaluated studies that examined the relationship between food price and diet over time,” said co-first author Ashkan Afshin, M.D., former postdoctoral fellow at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University and now at the University of Washington. “Our results show how 10 to 50 percent changes in price of foods and beverages at checkout could influence consumers’ purchasing behaviors over a relatively short period of time.”