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Lower Prices Make Healthy
Snacks More Tempting

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - When it comes to food, taste is a powerful motivator. But according to researchers, money may be sweeter than candy.

Investigators found that when the price of low-fat snacks were cut in vending machines, people tended to choose a healthier snack over a relatively unhealthy one. The findings, published in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health, journal of the American Public Health Association, suggest that reducing prices can help people to make better food choices and ultimately improve health.

``People who are concerned with promoting good nutrition at schools, worksites and other community settings need to make tasty, healthful food choices available at attractive prices,'' according to Dr. Simone A. French and colleagues at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

``Even small improved dietary choices among teens could help establish longer-term healthful dietary practices that could potentially affect lifetime health,'' the authors add.

The investigators note that most Americans continue to exceed recommendations to consume no more than 30% of total calories from fat, raising the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer. Convenience foods, such as those found in vending machines, may contribute to Americans' excessive intake of fat.

To test whether lower prices could encourage people to choose healthier snacks, French's team placed snacks in 55 vending machines in schools and work places over a 1-year period.

Reducing the price of low-fat snacks by 50% led sales of these items to increase by 93%, results show. What's more, average profits from the machines were not affected.

A 25% reduction in prices led to a 39% increase in sales and a 10% price reduction led to a 9% rise in sales.

``The present study clearly demonstrates that lowering prices is a very effective method of promoting desired food choices in community-based settings and that it can be done while maintaining overall profitability,'' French and colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health 2001;91:112-117.


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