FRIDAY, Feb. 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Food prices are linked
to blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes, a new study
To reach this conclusion, researchers from the U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA) merged information from two giant
From the first study, the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey (NHANES), they gathered blood sugar measures of
about 2,400 adults who met a definition of type 2 diabetes.
They then compared those levels to average grocery prices over
the previous three months in 35 markets around the United States.
Those prices came from the Quarterly Food-at-Home Price
The result? As the costs of healthy foods like fruits,
vegetables and low-fat dairy products climbed, so did blood sugar
levels. The reverse was true for unhealthy foods. Falling prices
for sugar, saturated fat and total calories were tied to higher
blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Those relationships
were strongest for low-income consumers.
"Most likely, it's because people eat less produce and switch to products that are less healthy," said study author Ilya Rahkovsky, an economist with the USDA's Economic Research Service in Washington, D.C.
The study is published online in the Feb. 13 issue of the
American Journal of Public Health.
A December study from the Harvard School of Public Health
estimated that healthy eating costs the average person about $1.50
per day more than unhealthy eating.
That may not be such a stretch for a middle-class family. But
experts say that kind of price hike may prohibitive for the poor,
forcing them to swap fruits, vegetables and lean proteins for more
processed and junk foods, which tend to be higher in fat, added
sugar and calories.
The new study found that for every increase of roughly 10 cents
per pound in the cost of produce, fasting blood sugar climbed 20
milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or about 13 percent of the
average fasting glucose level in the study, which was 162
Every roughly 14-cent increase in a pound of low-fat dairy was
tied to a 9 mg/dL increase in fasting blood sugar, about 6 percent
of the average level.
While the study found an association between food prices and
blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes, it did not
establish a cause-and-effect link.
"Healthy foods are more expensive, and being forced to purchase unhealthy foods, maybe for economic reasons, does have health consequences," said Adam Drewnowski, director of the nutritional sciences program at the University of Washington, in Seattle. He was not involved in the research.
"Instead of merely advising people to consume expensive foods for better health, we ought to pay more attention to prices," he said.
American Diabetes Associationfor a low-cost
eating plan for diabetes.
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