Cheaper Veggies and Taxes on Meat Could Save Thousands of Lives Each Year, Studies Find

Cheaper Veggies and Taxes on Meat Could Save Thousands of Lives Each Year
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Decreasing the prices on healthy foods could help to reduce the risk of death from leading diseases including stroke, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, finds a new study.

The research, published in a recent issue of the journal BMC Medicine, found just a ten percent subsidy on fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, could prevent as many as 23,000 deaths per year. A 30 percent decrease in these food costs would triple the prevented deaths to more than 60,000.

Likewise, the researchers found taxing unhealthy foods by ten percent or more, foods like sweetened sodas and both processed and unprocessed meat would also help to reduce the risks of diet-related illnesses and death.

The researchers made their conclusions after looking at dietary habits, risk factors, and death rates of study participants, as well as data on consumer response to food prices.

Diabetes deaths were most influenced by more expensive sugary beverages, while stroke deaths were most influenced by cheaper fruits and vegetables” Newsweek’s Sydney Pereira notes.

“This is the first time, to our knowledge, that national data sets have been pooled and analyzed to investigate the influence of food subsidies and taxes on disparities in cardiometabolic deaths in the United States,” lead author José L. Peñalvo, adjunct assistant professor at Tufts University’s nutrition science and policy school, said in a statement.

Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in the U.S. — a disease highly influenced by diet and lifestyle. But cancer is quickly gaining, and in some cases, its roots are strongly connected to diet and lifestyle. New research released this week links diabetes and obesity to as many as 800,000 cancer cases worldwide. 

The research, led by the Imperial College London, found that nearly six percent of new cancer cases diagnosed in 2012 were a result of the combination of diabetes and being overweight.

“A substantial number of cancer cases are attributable to diabetes and high BMI [body mass index], the researchers noted. “As the prevalence of these cancer risk factors increases, clinical and public health efforts should focus on identifying optimal preventive and screening measures for whole populations and individual patients.”

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.