Researchers at one city hospital are looking to prove that lower prices are needed at grocery stores in order to fight the obesity epidemic. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
It's common knowledge that healthier food options like fresh fruits and vegetables usually cost more than processed meals and snacks.
"The cost of it is a big hindrance to people eating more of it or even eating the minimum requirement recommended by the USDA," says Ian Ang of the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center.
That's what's motivating a series of studies lead by researchers at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center.
With the help of two D'Agostino supermarkets on the Upper West Side, the food purchases of 47 overweight customers were monitored.
Part of the group received special loyalty cards that sliced the price of fruits, vegetables, diet soda and bottled water in half.
"With a 50 percent discount, participants purchased three times as many fruits and vegetables as they did before the discount, and they consumed about 50 percent more," says Allan Geliebter of the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center.
They checked in with participants each month, measuring their body weight and fat and recording their eating habits.
"I think people maybe increased their liking for fruits and vegetables," Geliebter says.
Even when the prices of fruits and vegetables went back up for study participants, many continued to purchase the healthier food options.
"They did continue to eat more afterwards, but the intake was not as high as it was during the experiment," Geliebter says.
The team is working now on a larger study with two more stores and 70 participants, focusing more on weight loss due to the price change and the impact income level has on decisions to buy nutritious foods.
They hope to eventually do a study with 300 participants, with the ultimate goal of illustrating the need for policy intervention.
"We hope that the government decides to help subsidize fruits and vegetables," Geliebter says. "It could be one step in the path of reducing the obesity epidemic."
There are some city programs geared toward making healthy foods more accessible. For more information, visit nyc.gov/html/doh/html/living/eating-well2.shtml.