Changing Prices to Improve Health: Beyond Sugar Taxes

Sugar taxes have seen news coverage in recent years as a way to decrease sugar intake, but a new study found potential merit for additional price changes to improve health.

Grocery basket with vegetables

A study from Tufts University published in BMC Medicine found that changing the price on 7 foods by 10% could prevent an estimated 23,000 deaths per year from cardiometabolic disease.

The study moved beyond the idea of taxing nutrients we should get less of, like sugar, to include the idea of subsidizing healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. The study also included a tax on processed and unprocessed red meats.

This research suggests taxes on unhealthy foods and subsidies for healthy foods may reduce deaths from stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, especially among Americans with lower socioeconomic status.

Sugar taxes have been controversial in legislation, but research shows it is likely achieving its intended purpose. Taxing and subsidizing the bulk of the food supply would likely be quite complicated in practice, but this research shows it’s not something that should be ruled out just yet.