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‘Fat tax’ can boost healthy foods demand: Study

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New York: Small price differences in food products, which mimic a “fat tax”, can be highly effective in shifting consumer demand from high calorie to healthier low-calorie alternatives, say authors of a study that included Indians.

The paper ‘Will a Fat Tax Work?’ by professors Romana Khan at Northwestern University, Kanishka Misra at the University of Michigan, and Vishal Singh at the New York University Stern School of Business is based on a large-scale field study analysing six years of sales data from over 1,700 supermarkets across the US.

It found that low-income consumers, who disproportionately suffer the consequences of obesity, are particularly responsive to small price differences across products. Such differences are important because they mimic a “fat tax”.

The researchers focused on a peculiar pricing pattern of milk in the US, where relative prices for milk across fat content — whole, two percent, one percent and skim — vary depending on where you live and which store you happen to patronise.

At some stores, prices are equal across all fat content; at others, prices decrease with fat content, with whole milk the most expensive and skim the cheapest option.

“The question that comes to mind is whether these different price structures have an impact on people’s choices. To put it simply, do people switch to lower fat milk for a price difference as small as 15 cents per gallon?” said Romana Khan, the co-author on the study.

“The answer to this question is of interest because it relates to the hotly debated issue of whether a ‘fat’ or ‘sugar’ tax can be an effective mechanism to curb obesity.”

The study found that in markets where milk prices were equal across fat alternatives, people chose whole milk over lower calorie alternatives, particularly in low-income areas.

At equal prices across fat content, the market share of whole milk was 52 percent Ain lower income areas compared to 25 percent in higher income areas.

In markets where whole milk was priced at a premium, the average price difference for a gallon of milk of just 14 cents (five percent) caused a significant shift in market share away from whole milk to lower fat options.

This shift to the lower calorie options was significantly more pronounced in low-income neighbourhoods.

“This provides us with a quasi-experimental setup to analyse how small price differences impact people’s choices,” said Misra.

“Our results have significant implications for health experts and policy makers since interventions in the form of taxes on high calories foods are highly contentious,” said Singh of the New York University.

“The general perception is that these taxes need to be substantial, at least 20 percent and often as high as 50 percent, to have a meaningful impact. This would be highly regressive since low-income consumers spend a greater proportion of their disposable income on food,” he added.

The new study shows that large shifts in demand toward the lower-calorie option can be achieved with a price difference of just 5-10 percent.

“Here, we have compelling field-based evidence that such taxes don’t need to be high to be effective,” Singh said. (IANS), (image courtesy:i.guim.co.uk)

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Tips That Can Help in Boost Healthy Living

Five easy-to-find foods to boost your health:

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Tips That Can Help in Boost Healthy Living
Tips That Can Help in Boost Healthy Living. Pixabay

Get your diet chart right for a healthier and happier you.

Faith Toogood, a nutritionist working with Spire Bristol Hospital here, has suggested tips on foods that can help in boost healthy living, reports femalefirst.co.uk.

Five foods to give up:

* Sugar: The sweet stuff is enemy number one when it comes to losing weight. Recent studies have suggested that our excessive consumption of sugar is contributing to the obesity epidemic – on average we’re eating about twice as much sugar as we should be. Try to opt for low sugar alternatives and get in the habit of reading the labels of the foods you buy – and if sugar is listed in the first three ingredients then don’t buy it.

* Trans-fats: A trans-fat is a form of unsaturated fat which behaves like a saturated fat because of its chemical structure. It should be avoided as trans-fats increase the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood, while also lowering the amount of ‘good’ cholesterol in the blood.

meat
Avoid the intake of processed meat in your diet. Pixabay

* Processed meats: A processed meat isn’t just spam, which is what initially springs to mind. The definition includes any meat that has had something done to it to make it last longer (through salting, curing, smoking or using chemical preservatives) which includes lunch meats such as Parma ham and bacon.

* Ready meals: They’ve been on the bad list for a while, but ready meals are often laden with a large amount of salt and sugar and are highly processed. Popular choices such as lasagne, moussaka and curry are some of the worst culprits as they can contain large amounts of saturated fat.

Also Read: Dark Chocolate Your Key to Healthy Heart

Five easy-to-find foods to boost your health:

* Nuts: Nuts are packed with protein, fibre and essential fats, which makes them a very healthy snack. Just a handful of nuts contain a variety of vitamins and minerals – from vitamin E to help your skin to zinc which aids fertility. The best choices include almonds, brazil nuts, cashews and walnuts.

* Oats: Oats have long been associated with a healthy lifestyle and for good reason. Wholegrain oats are a good source of carbohydrate, magnesium and have a low glycemic index, which means they release energy into the blood stream slowly.

kale
Kale. Pixabay

* Kale: This leafy green has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity and rightly so. It’s extremely nutritious, widely available and cheap so there’s no excuse not to give it a try. Kale is very low fat and low in calories and it’s also a good source of dietary fibre, iron and calcium.

* Oily fish: There is some evidence that oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines help protect against cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, age-related vision loss and dementia. Eating two portions of fish a week, with at least one of these being an oily fish, can help maintain a healthy blood pressure and reduce risk of heart disease.

* Pulses and beans: Pulses include foods such as beans, lentils and chickpeas – they’re a great low-fat source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals such as iron which makes them an excellent addition to a healthy diet. (Bollywood Country)