Study: How to save money while preventing childhood obesity

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Taxes on sugary drinks and unhealthy food advertising to kids may save more than $30 in health care costs for every dollar spent to implement, suggests a new study published this month.

Childhood obesity rates are nudging upwards, which means more kids are at risk for obesity in adulthood. With this extra weight comes increased risk for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as the high costs of health care that come with these diseases.

The new study used previous research to analyze the cost effectiveness and impact on childhood obesity of 7 proposed interventions. Six of the interventions aimed to prevent weight gain in youth while one involved surgical treatment of obesity. With the help of policy makers and other experts, study authors estimated the the effect of each intervention among the US population over the 10 years spanning 2015 to 2025.

Overall, five strategies were found to decrease incidence of childhood obesity (see chart) with three saving more in healthcare costs than they cost to implement.

Obesity cost effectivenesssOne strategy was a tax on sugary beverages. The proposed tax, translating to 12 cents for a can of soda, would prevent an estimated 576,000 children from being obese and save $30 for every dollar it cost to enact.

Another effective strategy was to create nutrition standards for school snacks, fundraisers and other foods sold outside of school meals. This would prevent an estimated 345,00 cases of childhood obesity, saving about $4.50 for every dollar it costs.

Nutrition standards for school meals was found to prevent the most cases of childhood obesity — approximately 1.8 million cases — yet this strategy cost about 60 cents more to implement than it would save in healthcare costs.

These results demonstrate the importance and feasibility of prevention measures to reduce childhood obesity, note the authors. The sugar sweetened beverage tax and taxing advertising would also provide revenue that would offset the costs of other prevention efforts, such as nutrition standards for school meals. Future studies are needed to assess the cumulative impact and costs of these interventions.

This study was funded by The JPB Foundation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Donald and Sue Pritzker Nutrition and Fitness Initiative, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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    Nutrition Conference, Trends and Takeaways

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    Straight from Nashville, we’re just back from the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo – a meeting highlighting the latest research on how foods affect our health and diseases, such as cancer risk. It’s a conference geared towards dietitians, so it’s also a place where companies showcase their health-related foods.

    What were the big food trends and research takeaways related to cancer risk? Here’s a few of the conference highlights.

    From the expo hall

    several cereals are now incorporating sorghum
    several cereals are now incorporating sorghum

    – Beans and whole grains are big. This is a crowd that loves these foods – as do we here at AICR – but there appears to be a revival of beans and lentil products making their way into the supermarkets. There were numerous new ideas to cook with lentils, a high protein and high fiber food, including these recipes: Coconut Cream Overnight Oats and Lentils and Lentil Fudge.

    The ancient grain sorghum also appears to be increasingly making its way into products. It’s drought-resistant and gluten free, two traits that are making it popular. (Plain, it tastes similar to barley.) Sorghum can be served as a hot breakfast cereal, as a side or salad mixed with vegetables, or in stews and soups, like this Chicken, Leek and Sorghum soup. Read more… “Nutrition Conference, Trends and Takeaways”

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      Misleading Journal Article Attacks US Dietary Guidelines Report, Earns Swift Rebuttal

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      Today the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an editorial that attacks the science behind the U.S. Dietary Guidelines report. It’s a surprising development for several reasons: the BMJ is a prestigious journal, yet the piece contains several basic factual errors, and it arrives just as meat and sugar industry lobbyists are seeking ways to derail the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which government officials are now in the Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 12.13.58 PMprocess of writing. The Guidelines have the potential to help prevent thousands of cancer and other chronic diseases.

      The piece, written by a journalist who last year published a book called The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in the American Diet, claims the report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) “does not take into account all the relevant scientific evidence” and is marked by an “overall lack of sound and proper methods.” It goes on to list several specific studies that weren’t included, and to question the inclusion of observational evidence that does not meet what it considers “established” methods of analysis.

      Within hours, the article’s misleading statements earned this swift and spirited rebuke on the website The Verge. That post addresses the BMJ article’s errors in great detail, and we at AICR encourage you to read it. Read more… “Misleading Journal Article Attacks US Dietary Guidelines Report, Earns Swift Rebuttal”

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