Food taxes and discounts affect weight

March 19, 2009 at 3:36 PM

CHICAGO, March 19 (UPI) -- Food prices can affect weight outcomes and pricing interventions can have a significant effect on obesity rates, U.S. researchers said.

Lisa Powell and Frank J. Chaloupka of the University of Illinois at Chicago assessed research published between 1990-2008 that involved weight and body mass index in combination with pricing and taxes.

The study, published in a special March issue of the The Milbank Quarterly that focused on obesity, found that raising the prices of less healthy foods -- fast food and sugary products -- and lowering the prices of healthier foods -- fruits and vegetables -- are associated with lower body weight and lesser likelihood of obesity.

However, small taxes on unhealthy food items or small subsidies for healthy foods are not likely to produce substantial changes in weight or obesity prevalence, while nontrivial pricing interventions may have a measurable effect on Americans' weight outcomes, the study said.

"This review provides evidence about the potential effectiveness of using food pricing policies to affect weight outcomes, including the potential impact of excise and other taxes on less healthy products and of subsidies for more healthy products," the authors said in a statement.

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