Grocery Price Changes Could Lower Diabetes Related Deaths

Researchers at Tufts University found that deaths owed to diabetes, stroke, and heart disease would be reduced by altering the price of seven foods, including fruits, vegetables, and sugar-sweetened drinks.

A comparative risk assessment model was employed to estimate the influence of price subsidies for fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, and of higher taxes on sugary beverages, and red meat (processed and unprocessed).

“This is the first time, to our knowledge, that national data sets have been pooled and analyzed to investigate the influence of food subsidies and taxes on disparities in cardiometabolic deaths in the United States,” said researcher José L. Peñalvo, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

The investigators found that by changing the price of all seven items 10 percent each, approximately 23,000 deaths per year could be prevented. With a 30 percent price alteration about 63,000 deaths might be prevented—close to 10 percent of all cardiometabolic disease deaths per year. Reducing the price of fruits and vegetables, and raising the price of sugared drinks would provide the most benefit.

Further, many prevented deaths would be among Americans with a high school education or less, compared to college graduates.

“The current strategies, such as education campaigns or food labeling, have improved overall dietary habits, but much less so among people with lower socioeconomic status,” said researcher Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., dean of the Friedman School. “These results suggest that financial incentives to purchase healthy food, and disincentives to purchase unhealthy foods, can prove successful in meaningfully reducing cardiometabolic disease disparities.”

The price changes most influenced disease outcomes for stroke, followed by diabetes. Taxes on sugary drinks were the greatest preventive factor for diabetes deaths, while death by stroke was most altered by fruit and vegetable subsidies.

The researchers note their calculations reflect an average effect of price changes since the outcomes depend on which alternative products shoppers buy.

Source: Tufts Now
Photo credit: Andrew E. Larsen

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