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Taxing High-Calorie Foods Reduces Calorie Intake

January 26, 2011: 04:35 AM EST
Participants in a study by U.S. and Dutch scientists selected lower-calorie foods when the price of higher-calorie foods included a surcharge or tax, but only in the absence of calorie information. In the study, 178 university students were allowed to select lunch from a menu three different times. The prices for high-calorie foods – bacon cheeseburgers, steak fajitas, brownies, etc.  – increased each time to as much as 150 percent of the base price. The researchers found that a price increase for the high-calorie foods cut the percentage of calories chosen for lunch, but only when calorie information was not provided. Students whose purchasing behavior did not change despite the tax on high-calorie foods were those who paid attention to calorie intake and were shown calorie information.
Janneke CAH Giesen, et al., "Exploring how calorie information and taxes on high-calorie foods influence lunch decisions", American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 26, 2011, © American Society for Nutrition
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