Public Health Nutrition

Health economy

Diet cost, diet quality and socio-economic position: how are they related and what contributes to differences in diet costs?

Petra J Rydéna1 c1 and Linda Hagforsa1

a1 Department of Food and Nutrition, Umeå University, S-90187 Umeå, Sweden

Abstract

Objective To examine diet costs in relation to dietary quality and socio-economic position, and to investigate underlying reasons for differences in diet costs.

Design Dietary intake was assessed by a 4 d food diary and evaluated using the 2005 Healthy Eating Index (HEI). National consumer food prices collected by Statistics Sweden and from two online stores/supermarkets were used to estimate diet costs.

Setting Sweden.

Subjects A nationally representative sample of 2160 children aged 4, 8 or 11 years.

Results Higher scores on the HEI resulted in higher diet costs and, conversely, higher diet costs were linked to increased total HEI scores. Children who consumed the most healthy and/or expensive diets ate a more energy-dilute and varied diet compared with those who ate the least healthy and/or least expensive diets. They also consumed more fish, ready meals and fruit. Regression analysis also linked increased food costs to these food groups. There was a positive, but weak, relationship between HEI score and diet cost, parental education and parental occupation respectively.

Conclusions Healthy eating is associated with higher diet cost in Swedish children, in part because of price differences between healthy and less-healthy foods. The cheapest and most unhealthy diets were found among those children whose parents were the least educated and had manual, low-skill occupations. Our results pose several challenges for public health policy makers, as well as for nutrition professionals, when forming dietary strategies and providing advice for macro- and microlevels in society.

(Received October 26 2010)

(Accepted November 23 2010)

(Online publication January 24 2011)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email petra.ryden@kost.umu.se

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