September 2, 2015

How much does healthy eating cost?

Economy

“We are what we eat”, renowned philosopher Feuerbach used to say, and I have always thought he was right: what we eat deeply affects our life, mood and health. In this regard, I recently came across a very interesting report entitled ‘The rising cost of an healthy diet’ by ODI, a British think tank focused on researching emerging markets. It explained how, sadly, four of the main economies currently on our planet’s launching pad have picked up way too quickly our bad eating habits – and with ‘our’ I mean the Anglo-Saxon world rather than Italy.

After analysing the eating habits of people in China, Brazil, Mexico and South Korea, researchers have compared them to those of the UK and the US with the aim of identifying the trends they have in common. The most important one, which should immediately raise a red flag, concerns the hike in the price of healthy food and the simultaneous decrease of junk food costs. Just think that in China, vegetables are now twice more expensive than what they were twenty years ago and it’s safe to say that at the end of the day, people on the breadline will always opt for cheap unhealthy food rather than the more pricey fruit and veg.

What are the consequences of this trend? As far as health is concerned, the repercussions have been impossible to ignore: in Brazil, the recorded cases of obesity have tripled since 1980, from 33m to 90m. In 2014 Mexico has introduced a ‘junk food tax’ in an attempt to curb unhealthy eating habits, a move welcomed by the ODI report as it could deter people from buying unhealthy food, provided it is combined with a decrease in the price of healthier counterparts. It could work, yes, yet I remain of the opinion that if we want our kids to pick up good eating habits, we need to educate them and, most of all, lead by example.

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