The Effects of Relative Food Prices on Obesity

Evidence from China 1991-2006

Published In: NBER Working Papers, no. 15720 / (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, Feb. 2010), 45 p

Posted on RAND.org on January 31, 2010

by Yang Lu, Dana P. Goldman

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This paper explores the effects of relative food prices on body weight and body fat over time in China. The authors study a cohort of 15,000 adults from over 200 communities in China, using the longitudinal China Health and Nutrition Survey (1991-2006). The authors find that the price of energy-dense foods has consistent and negative effects on body fat, while such price effects do not always reflect in body weight. These findings suggest that changes in food consumption patterns induced by varying food prices can increase percentage body fat to risky levels even without substantial weight gain. In addition, food prices and subsidies could be used to encourage healthier food consumption patterns and to curb obesity.

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