High cost of fruits, vegetables linked to higher body fat in young children

February 20, 2014

High prices for fresh fruits and vegetables are associated with higher Body Mass Index (BMI) in young children in low- and middle-income households, according to American University researchers in the journal Pediatrics.

"There is a small, but significant, association between the prices of and and higher child BMI," said Taryn Morrissey, the study's lead author and assistant professor of public administration and policy at AU's School of Public Affairs (SPA).

Morrissey said that when the prices of fruits and vegetables go up, families may buy less of them and substitute cheaper foods that may not be as healthy and have more calories.

"These associations are driven by changes in the prices of rather than frozen or canned," said Alison Jacknowitz, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of and policy at SPA.

BMI is a reliable indicator of total body fat, which is related to the risk of life-threatening diseases. More than 26 percent of 2- to 5-year-old children nationwide were considered overweight, defined as having a BMI above the 85th percentile, in 2009 and 2010, up from 21 percent a decade earlier.

The researchers linked data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, a nationally representative study of children from infancy to age 5, to local food price data from the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) Cost-of-Living Index. The study focused on households under 300 percent of the federal poverty line, or a family of four earning $70,650 in 2013.

While, in general, food prices have trended downward in recent decades, particularly the prices of snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages, the real prices of restaurant meals and fruits and vegetables have increased. Fruit and vegetable prices increased by 17 percent between 1997 and 2003 alone. Children living in areas with higher-priced fruits and vegetables averaged higher measures of BMI scores compared with their peers in areas with lower-priced .

Another surprising finding was an association between higher fast food prices and an increase in obesity. Morrissey said local fast food outlets may have more freedom than grocery stores to increase their prices in response to higher demand for their products.

The study also identified a small association between higher-priced soft drinks and a lower likelihood of obesity among . The study did not find strong associations between and food insecurity, meaning families forced by a lack of money to skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food at some point.

Explore further: Food price hikes may affect those with type 2 diabetes

More information: The other co-author of the article, "Local Food Prices and Their Associations with Children's Weight and Food Security," is SPA doctoral student Katie Vinopal. The article can be found at pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/02/04/peds.2013-1963.abstract

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not rated yet Feb 20, 2014
I've lost about 10 lbs in the past 3 months or so by changing absolutely nothing except replacing sodas with Hawaiian punch.

I dislike most fruits, except bananas and tomatoes, so I rarely eat apples, oranges, or similar things.

I eat lots of green, leafy vegatables though: cabbage, greens, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower(white or that hybrid green kind), all fresh, almost never canned.

I don't cook with salt when i cook, and I never add salt to anything except once in a very long while, usually on a boiled egg, for some reason.

I think Hawaiian Punch has about half the calories of a soda, but the calories is actually not what's doing the work. Something in Hawaiian Punch actually quenches your thirst, instead of making you thirstier, plus each serving has 100% of vitamin C, which probably makes up for not eating oranges and other citrus.

So the ability to quench the thirst means I don't drink as much anyway, so even if it had more sugar, I'd be better served than sodas.
not rated yet Feb 20, 2014
Given my observations of the above phenomenon, I would support a sugar tax on drinks with more sugar per serving than that of Hawaiian punch.

Like say, 5cents per serving for every 10 grams or part of ten grams of sugar beyond 25g per serving.

therefore, a typical soda would be taxed 10 cents per 8oz serving, or 15 cents per 12oz can, or 25 cents per 20oz bottle. Combine this with the "absurdly small/inefficient plastic container tax" and you could add maybe 40 cents to the cost of a 20oz soda.

I think that would help tear into obesity by making it financially harder to support the bad habits.

The condition of course is that ALL of the money gathered in this way must go toward paying for government medical assistance and medical insurance programs.
not rated yet Feb 23, 2014
I think Hawaiian Punch has about half the calories of a soda, but the calories is actually not what's doing the work.

Google is your friend (or maybe not). Sugar (i.e. calories) per 8 oz serving:

Cola: 22 g
Hawaiian Punch: 29 g (!!!)

So something else must be going on in your case. You didn't mention how much is consumed, but I'd hazard what you interpret as thirst isn't. Otherwise plain old water would suffice.

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