The idea of a national soda tax has been floating around lately, and a few jurisdictions are already giving it a try.
But would higher prices on unhealthy foods, and lower prices on healthy ones, be enough to change people’s eating habits in a meaningful way?
According to a new study out of Tufts University, the answer might be “yes.”
The researchers used a comparative risk assessment model to estimate the potential effects of subsidizing healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds) and taxing sugary drinks, processed meats, and unprocessed red meats.
They found that changing food prices by 10% (i.e., a 10% decrease for healthy foods, a 10% increase for meats and drinks) could prevent 23,000 deaths due to cardiometabolic diseases annually in the United States. A 30% price change would prevent an estimated 63,000 deaths per year. That’s equivalent to 3.4% and 9.2% of all cardiometabolic disease deaths, respectively.
The results also showed that the price changes would reduce the disparities in cardiometabolic disease outcomes across socioeconomic statuses. Most of the improvements can be attributed to making fruits and vegetables cheaper and sugary drinks more expensive.