Navigation Links
Discounts on purchases of healthy foods can improve diets, study finds

Lowering the costs of healthy foods in supermarkets increases the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods that people eat, while also appearing to reduce consumption of nutritionally less-desirable foods, according to research from the RAND Corporation.

Researchers examined a program available to members of South Africa's largest private health insurance company that provides a rebate of 10 percent or 25 percent on purchases of healthy foods. The program, started in 2009, now has about 800 participating supermarkets and enrolls more than 260,000 households.

Interest has been growing in the United States and elsewhere about the ability of food discount programs to help improve diets. The U.S. Congress in 2008 approved funding for a demonstration of the concept, and both employers and insurance companies in the United States are beginning to test the approach.

In the South African program, shoppers can get the rebate on a list of foods selected by a panel of nutritionists, physicians and behavioral scientists. That list has over 6,000 items that account for 20 percent of food spending at supermarkets. Eligible items are marked at supermarket shelves and include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nonfat dairy, but excludes most items with added sugars or salt.

The research team collected supermarket scanner data linked to 170,000 households and survey data about diet patterns from 350,000 individuals, including both those who participated in the rebate program and those who did not. Regardless of how the information was analyzed, lower prices for healthy foods were significantly associated with better self-reported diet.

"These findings offer good evidence that lowering the cost of nutritionally preferable foods can motivate people to significantly improve their diet," said Roland Sturm, a study co-author and a senior economist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "But behavior changes are proportional to price changes. When there is a large gap between people's actual eating behaviors and what nutritionists recommend, even a 25 percent price change closes just a small fraction of that gap."

The analysis of supermarket scanner, published online this month by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that a rebate of 25 percent increased the ratio of healthy to total food purchased by 9.3 percent. In addition, the rebate increased the ratio of fruit and vegetables to total food purchases by 8.5 percent, and decreased the ratio of less-desirable food to total food purchases by 7.2 percent.

Less-desirable items that are discouraged include cookies, candy, chips, and soft drinks. The effects of the price subsidies appeared stable over time and the 25 percent rebate had consistently greater impact than the smaller rebate.

The research team also analyzed survey responses. Based on self-report, individuals who received a 25 percent rebate consumed an additional half-serving of fruits and vegetables each day. Those same participants reported being less likely to consume fast food, foods high in sugar and salt, fried foods and processed meats. There was no evidence that the rebate program reduced rates of obesity or that fewer participants were overweight. Survey results were published in the January issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior.

The research evaluates a benefit offered by Discovery Health, the largest health insurer in South Africa with about a one-third market share. The company's Vitality program is a supplemental benefit and a prerequisite for the HealthyFood benefit. The HealthyFood benefit is available to members at no cost, but needs to be activated by phone or online.

Upon activation, Vitality members receive a 10 percent rebate on healthy food purchases at participating supermarkets and become eligible for a 25 percent rebate after completing an online health risk assessment questionnaire. The maximum monthly purchase amount eligible for a rebate is 4,000 rands (about $480) per family.

"This program may be unique worldwide due to its size and geographic scope and is the only one funded by the private sector on an ongoing basis," said Ruopeng An, co-author of the studies and a fellow at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. "It is a real-life program, not a lab experiment, so we have to use different statistical tools to analyze it."

The research team employed fixed-effects panel data models to control for unobservable constant differences between participants and non-participants and instrumental variables to achieve an approximate randomization, among other tools.


Contact: Warren Robak
RAND Corporation

Related medicine news :

1. Crystal Travel Center in Thousand Oaks and Breezes Spa and Resorts Team Up to Offer Amazing Discounts for Upcoming Vacations
2. Web Entrepreneur Launches, an Online Mall with Many Different Products
3. Globus Cork Offers Sandy Relief Discounts
4. Huge Discounts Now Available Through Practical Wealth LLC for Business Owners Seeking Business Funding
5. People Overestimate the Happiness New Purchases Will Bring
6. Social ties have mixed impact on encouraging healthy behaviors in low-income areas
7. Life expectancy and healthy life years in the European Union, 2008-2010
8. Healthy Lifestyle Choices Could Cut Cancer Rates: Report
9. Healthy Behaviors Extend Life After Cancer, Experts Say
10. Healthy Weight Loss May Also Cut Your Cancer Risk
11. Study Redefines What a Healthy Vagina Is
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/27/2015)... VVA (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... motto of progress through sharing, the 2016 Building Better Radiology Marketing ... The conference will begin on Sunday, March 6, 2016, at Caesars Palace in ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... failing. Secura Consultants has prided itself for not only fulfilling the needs of ... protection solutions at an affordable price and providing top-tier customer service. However, there's ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... 2015 , ... The men and women on this list ... the country. They have overseen financial turnarounds, shown commitment to their community through ... as a whole through their advocacy and professional efforts. , Becker's Hospital Review ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... 2015 , ... Indosoft Inc., developer and distributor of the ... LTS (Long Term Support) into its Q-Suite 5.10 product line. , Making the ... a version of Asterisk that will receive not only security fixes, but feature ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... ... November 26, 2015 , ... CognisantMD and Cambridge Memorial ... in the Waterloo region. Using the Ocean Platform, family physicians can now order ... electronic medical record (EMR) without the need for redundant patient entry or an ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015  Linden Care, LLC, a retail specialty pharmacy ... patients suffering from chronic pain, said today that it ... Order (TRO) enjoining Express Scripts from unilaterally terminating the ... --> --> The company said ... options. --> --> ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 On Tuesday, November 24, ... trial against Wright Medical Technology, Inc. for product ... metal-on-metal hip implant device, awarded $11 million in ... week trial and three days of deliberations, the ... was defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous, and that ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015  Henry Schein, Inc., the world,s largest ... dental, medical and animal health practitioners, will unveil at ... Henry Schein ConnectDental® Pavilion , which brings together for ... solutions designed to help any practice or laboratory enter ... for a schedule of experts appearing at the Pavilion. ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: