Has it become increasingly expensive to follow a nutritious diet? Insights from a new price index for nutritious diets in Sweden 1980-2012

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Abstract

Background: Health-related illnesses such as obesity and diabetes continue to increase, particularly in groups of low socioeconomic status. The increasing cost of nutritious food has been suggested as an explanation. Objective: To construct a price index describing the cost of a diet adhering to nutritional recommendations for a rational and knowledgeable consumer and, furthermore, to investigate which nutrients have become more expensive to obtain over time. Methods: Linear programming and goal programming were used to calculate two optimal and nutritious diets for each year in the interval under different assumptions. The first model describes the rational choice of a cost-minimizing consumer; the second, the choice of a consumer trying to deviate as little as possible from average consumption. Shadow price analysis was used to investigate how nutrients contribute to the diet cost. Results: The cost of a diet adhering to nutritional recommendations has not increased more than general food prices in Sweden between 1980 and 2012. However, following nutrient recommendations increases the diet cost even for a rational consumer, particularly for vitamin D, iron, and selenium. The cost of adhering to the vitamin D recommendation has increased faster than the general food prices. Conclusions: Not adhering to recommendations (especially those for vitamin D) offers an opportunity for consumers to lower the diet cost. However, the cost of nutritious diets has not increased more than the cost of food in general between 1980 and 2012 in Sweden.

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Håkansson, A. (2015). Has it become increasingly expensive to follow a nutritious diet? Insights from a new price index for nutritious diets in Sweden 1980-2012. Food and Nutrition Research, 59, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v59.26932

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