HealthDay News — Governments could boost the consumption of healthy food by making it less expensive, as well as requiring that unhealthier food be more expensive, according to research published online March 1 in PLOS ONE.

The findings are based on an analysis of 30 studies. Eleven studies looked at what happened when unhealthier foods were taxed. Nineteen studies explored what people choose to eat when subsidies lowered the price of healthier food.

The researchers found that consumption of produce increased by 14% for each 10% decrease in price. A similar increase in consumption occurred when other healthier foods became less expensive. 

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Produce price changes were also linked to reduced body mass index. A 10% price increase in sugar-sweetened beverages and unhealthier fast food translated to decreases in consumption of 7% and 3%, respectively.

“Our findings suggest that subsidies and taxes are a highly effective tool for normalizing the price of foods toward their true societal costs,” senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University in Boston, said in a Tufts news release. “This will not only prevent disease but also reduce spiraling health care costs, which are causing tremendous strain on both private businesses and government budgets.”

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Afshin A, Peñalvo J, Del Gobbo L, et al. The prospective impact of food pricing on improving dietary consumption: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017;12(3):e0172277. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0172277