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Health & Medicine The Cost of Health: More Nutritious Diet $1.50 Extra Per Day

The Cost of Health: More Nutritious Diet $1.50 Extra Per Day

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First Posted: Dec 06, 2013 03:31 PM EST
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It might not come as much of a surprise that healthier diets cost more than our favorite McDonald's Happy Meal, but up until now, not much of a comparison between the healthy and the "tasty but terrible" had been defined.

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According to new research from the Harvard School of Public Health, they compared the prices of healty foods and diet patterns to less healthy ones. What did they find out? On average, a healthier diet costs $1.50 more per day.

"People often say that healthier foods are more expensive, and that such costs strongly limit better diet habits," lead study author Mayuree Rao, a junior research fellow in the Department of Epideemiology at HSPH said, via a press release. "But, until now, the scientific evidence for this idea has not been systematically evaluated, nor have the actual differences in cost been characterized."

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 27 existing studies from 10 high-income countries that included price data for individual foods and for healtheri vs. less healthy diets. They then evaluated the differences in prices per serving and per 200 calories for each particular types of foods based on the average calorie consumption of 2,000 calories a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommended average daily calorie intake for adults. Prices were then based on servings per calorie due to unit comparison.

Researchers found overall that it was easier to purchase more unhealthy volumes of food at a cheap price. However, healthier choices were more expensive and available in smaller quantities.

"This research provides the most complete picture to date on true cost differences of healthy diets," said Dariush Mozaffarian, the study's senior author and an associate professor at HSPH and Harvard Medical School, via the release. "While healthier diets did cost more, the difference was smaller than many people might have expected."

However, he stresses that for some families this cost may represent a big problem to eat healthy. For instance, to pick healthier choices for one person, that's $550 a year.

Though this price may seem high, it's certainly small when compared to economic costs of diet-related chronic diseases.

More information regarding the study can be found via the British Medical Journal (BMJ). 

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