High Prices, Lower Risks, And Little Kids

by DavalosMcCormack on March 11, 2010

Some things just make sense. You don’t need a meteorologist to tell you what the weather is like if you look out the window and see that it’s raining. Your opinion may be anecdotal and unscientific but it’s good enough for me under those circumstances.

In the same way, you know that if you raise the price of a product the odds are good that sales will go down (not always though – some wineries have found that by jacking up the cost of some of their high end wines they sell out faster, there’s a snob element involved you see).

But our friends the research scientists can’t leave anything to chance so now there are two new studies out that show that if you raise the price of fast food, then people will eat less of it. Not exactly rocket science, but it does have a couple of other findings that make it more than just another example of  “no duh” research.

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The two studies, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that as the cost of pizza and soda rose, so the level of consumption fell. Like I said, no big surprise. But what was interesting about these studies is that the first one found that as consumption of pizza and soda fell, so did the individual’s weight. In other words, they weren’t simply switching to some other junky diet and packing on the same amount of pounds just by consuming other crappy foods.

The second study found that as the price rose and consumption fell, so did the individual’s weight and their risk for diabetes. Again not a huge surprise, but nonetheless a delightful finding.

The increase in cost wasn’t huge either, just about 10 percent, but it was enough to get people to cut back consumption by up to 11.5 percent.

In short, this means that raising the cost of crappy foods could help get people to change their eating habits, and that they won’t necessarily just switch from their old favorites to new fast foods. That’s encouraging news for a nation that needs to raise some cash in a hurry to pay off its debts, and for a nation struggling to cope with rising obesity levels and the health care costs and consequences of a diet too heavy in fat and sugar and salt.

Little Children Lotta Calories

The problem with so many weight loss programs is that they don’t really start until the problem has been building up for years. Bad habits that began in childhood are so much harder to break, and the weight they helped pack on so much harder to lose, if you wait until you are an adult to try.

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A new study shows that for the last few decades our children have been developing some awfully bad habits indeed.

The study, by researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and published in the journal Health Affairs, tracked the eating habits of 31,337 children between the ages of two to 18, from 1977 to 2006. They found that the number of kids who snacked between meals rose from 74 percent in 1977 to 98 percent in 2006.

They also found that by 2006, the average kid was snacking three times a day, consuming an extra 600 calories on top of what they got from their regular meals. That meant they were getting, on average, an extra 168 calories a day just from snacks, compared to 1977.

Now you might think that 168 calories isn’t a lot. And by itself it isn’t. But if you have 168 calories on Monday, then again Tuesday, then again every other day of the week, every other week of the month, every other month of the year, year after year. It adds up. Let’s do the math. There are 3500 calories in a pound, so if you are eating an extra 168 calories a day then in just 21 days you’ll have added an extra pound. 21 days, three weeks. Not long is it!

The end result is a person who is carrying 20, 30, 40 or more pounds than they might otherwise be hauling around with them, if they hadn’t snacked as much when they were younger.

So parents, take note. A sweet treat today is fine. But when it becomes a daily routine, several times a day, then it’s no longer a treat, it’s a threat. That extra ‘h’ makes all the difference to the future health of your child.

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