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Discounts on purchases of healthy foods can improve diets, study finds
Date:3/18/2013

tional 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 asse
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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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