A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) demonstrates that the healthiest diets cost about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy diets. The findings, published in the British Medical Journal Open, are based on the most comprehensive examination to date comparing prices of healthy foods and diet patterns versus less healthy ones.
“People often say that healthier foods are more expensive, and that such costs strongly limit better diet habits,” said Mayuree Rao, a junior research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH. “But, until now, the scientific evidence for this idea has not been systematically evaluated, nor have the actual differences in cost been characterized.”
The HSPH team conducted a meta-analysis of 27 existing studies from 10 high-income countries to answer this question. The studies included price data for included foods and for healthier versus less healthy diets. The team evaluated several factors, including the differences in prices per serving and per 200 calories for particular types of foods, and prices per day and per 2,000 calories (the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended average daily calorie intake for adults) for overall diet patterns. The team assessed both prices per serving and per calorie because prices can vary depending on the unit of comparison. Continue reading