Lowering fruit, veggie prices can cut heart disease risk

New York, March 3 (IANS) A 10 percent drop in price for healthy foods and a 10 percent increase in the price of unhealthy foods could potentially prevent a significant number of people from dying from heart disease and stroke, suggests a new study.

Using a computer-based model, the researchers from Harvard University in US revealed how price changes might impact eating habits over time and whether this could reduce heart diseases.

The study revealed that a 10 percent price reduction on fruits and vegetables could overall decrease 1.2 percent deaths from cardiovascular diseases in five years and almost 2 percent within 20 years.

Heart attacks and strokes can decrease by 2.6 percent and 4 percent, respectively, over a period of 20 years.

Also, a 10 percent price reduction on grains can result in 0.2 percent decrease from heart diseases within five years and 0.3 percent by 20 years.

Further, a price increase of 10 percent on sugary drinks, deaths from heart diseases overall could decrease by nearly 0.1 percent within 5 years and 0.12 percent within 20 years. Specifically, heart attacks could decrease by 0.25 percent in both timeframes and strokes could decrease by 0.17 percent in 20 years.

Diabetes could decrease by 0.2 percent in five years and 0.7 percent in 20 years.

Combined, the model shows that by 2035 it would be possible to prevent 515,000 deaths from heart disease and nearly 675,000 events, such as heart attacks and strokes, across the nation with these small changes in price.

If a change by one serving occurred daily, for example one more piece of fruit (100gm), one full serving of a vegetable (100 gm), one serving of whole grains (50 gm), and one less 8 oz sugar sweetened beverage were consumed then up to 3.5 million deaths and 4 million heart disease events could be averted over a 2 year period.

“A change in your diet can be challenging, but if achieved through personal choice or changes in the market place, it can have a profound effect on your cardiovascular health,” said lead author Thomas A. Gaziano, assistant professor at Harvard University.

State and community leaders who want to improve the health of their communities can use these data to make impactful change, the researchers explained adding that the findings support the need to combine modest taxes and subsidies to better represent the real costs of food to health and society.

The research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific 2016 meeting.

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