When the cost of healthy eating gets too high

When the cost of healthy eating gets too high
Credit: Shutterstock

Preaching the benefits of healthy eating has little point when the cost of purchasing healthy foods in South Australia can cost as much as a third of a low-earner's income, according to Flinders University researchers.

A new public has found that the comparatively higher cost of eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet can be prohibitively expensive for people on low incomes, and is likely to drive them towards cheap, processed foodstuffs with high fat, salt and .

The study, led by the Head of the Discipline of Public Health, Professor Paul Ward, surveyed the cost of a weekly "shopping basket" of readily available healthy foods purchased in metropolitan Adelaide and rural centres in South Australia.

"You read a lot in the media about housing stress, but it applies to food as well," Professor Ward said.

In the case of , over a third of their is required to purchase healthy foods. In stark contrast, Professor Ward said, the proportion of income required to eat healthily by the top third of income earners is about nine per cent.

"With increasing obesity, governments tend to focus their attention on telling people to eat healthy, but the problem is that the more unaffordable becomes, then the more difficult it becomes for individuals to take the option," he said.

"If it's chewing up a third of your income to potentially eat healthily, and you have increasing utility bills and rental or mortgage payments, something's got to give.

"It's easy for governments to say that it's an to eat unhealthily, but the research shows that it's not a choice but an individual difficulty because of how much food costs.

The next step is to buy energy-dense but nutrient-poor food, because that is all they can afford."

Food is becoming more expensive because of issues that include drought and flooding as well as increased shipping and transport costs.

"These are real costs that producers have to pass on to consumers," Professor Ward said. And because of intrinsic factors such as the short shelf life of fresh fruit and vegetables, the price of healthy foods rises more steeply than that of processed foods.

Professor Ward said that to combat potential health problems such as obesity and diabetes, some governments overseas were trialling programs that reduced the costs of healthy foods in low-income areas.

"That approach has been shown to be effective in increasing the purchase of healthy foods in those locations," he said.

Professor Ward said other research that models the consequence of increased uptake of healthy foods shows marked long-term reductions in diet-related disease including diabetes and some cancers.

"The long-term impact of something pretty straightforward is very powerful," he said.

"Food Stress in Adelaide: The Relationship between Low Income and the Affordability of Healthy Food" is published in the Journal of Environment and .

More information: www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2013/968078/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Eat healthy -- your kids are watching

May 30, 2012

If lower-income mothers want kids with healthy diets, it's best to adopt healthy eating habits themselves and encourage their children to eat good foods rather than use force, rewards or punishments, says a Michigan State ...

Healthy eating can cost less, study finds

May 16, 2012

Is it really more expensive to eat healthy? An Agriculture Department study released Wednesday found that most fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods cost less than foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

Healthy Foods more Expensive than Junk Foods

Oct 17, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Healthy foods are rising in price faster than their less healthy alternatives. This is the finding of research published in the October issue of Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

1 hour ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments