August 10/Washington, D.C./USDA -- A recent USDA study found that food prices have small but statistically significant effects on children’s BMI. Lower prices for some healthier foods, such as low-fat milk and dark green vegetables, are associated with decreases in children’s BMI. In contrast, lower prices for soda, 100% juices, starchy vegetables, and sweet snacks are associated with increases in children’s BMI. Specifically, results show:

  • A 10% price decrease for low-fat milk in the previous quarter is associated with a decrease in BMI of approximately 0.35%, or about 0.07 BMI unit for an 8- to 9-year-old.
  • A 10% drop in the price of dark green vegetables (e.g., spinach and broccoli) in the previous quarter is associated with a reduction in BMI of 0.28%.
  • A decrease in the price of sweet snacks during the previous quarter is associated with an increase in BMI of 0.27%.
  • A 10% price increase for carbonated beverages one year prior is associated with a decrease of 0.42% in the average child’s BMI. The same price increase for 100% juices or starchy vegetables (e.g., potatoes and corn) is associated with a decrease in BMI of 0.3% one year later.

In addition, soda prices were shown to have a greater effect on children in households with income below 200% of the federal poverty line. Prices for healthy foods, such as low-fat milk and green vegetables, have greater effects on higher BMI children than on children of average weight. Prices for less healthy food groups, such as carbonated beverages, fruit drinks, and starchy vegetables, have greater effects on BMI for children of average weight.

From the August 11, 2011,Prepared Foods' Daily News.