‘Sin Tax’ on junk food could reduce obesity

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 25th February 2010

Researchers from the University of Buffalo in the US have published a study suggesting that increasing the prices of unhealthy foods could do more to prevent obesity than subsidising healthy foods.

In the study, New York mothers were placed in a mock-up supermarket, with cards showing product images and prices, and were invited to spend a limited amount of money buying foods for their family.  Researchers found that increasing the prices of unhealthy foods caused the participants to purchase lower total calories. Reducing the price of healthy foods caused shoppers to ‘splurge’ on high-calorie treats after stocking up on cheaper healthy staples.

Pediatric obesity expert Professor Leonard Epstein, who headed the study, is the creator of the ‘Traffic Light Diet’, which uses the simple visual imagery of a traffic light to indicate to dieters what to eat and what to avoid.  Labelling based on Professor Epstein’s diet has been introduced voluntarily in the UK, and has been proposed for introduction in Australia.