A new Harvard University study may hold the key to reducing the consumption of high-calorie beverages. The study looked at sales of high-calorie beverages (those with more than 150 calories per container and lower-calorie alternative beverages (those with less than 150 calories per container) in vending machines at a large financial company. High-calorie beverages in the study included soda, lemonade, some fruit juices and whole chocolate milk.
The Harvard study had two parts. In the first part, researchers raised the price of high-calorie beverages by just one cent per ounce (a pretty small change) while keeping the price of lower-calorie beverages unchanged. The result: A reduction of 16 percent in the sales of high-calorie beverages and an increase in sales of lower-calorie options.
In the second part of the study, researchers organized beverages in the vending machine based on their calorie content, from highest to lowest. They then labeled the items showing calorie content. The result: A reduction of 11 percent in sales of high-calorie beverages.
This research may have an impact on future public policy. There has been much discussion in recent years about how to address the nation’s obesity issues. Two approaches that have been proposed (and so far resisted in Congress) are adding a high-calorie “soda tax” and requiring manufacturers to clearly label the calorie content of packaged foods.
The Harvard study seems to suggest that either approach would likely have some positive impact. “This (price) study is consistent with other research, which shows that people are responsive to small price increases of 1 or 2 cents per ounce in sugar-sweetened beverages and will reduce their consumption of them,” says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Kelly Brownell, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and a proponent of soda taxes, says, “This is an important study because it documents the level of benefit likely to occur with public policies on taxing and labeling foods.”
What do you think? Should we look at “taxing” high-calorie beverages as a way to reduce consumption? Should we require manufacturers to more clearly label their products? We want to hear from you. Let us know if you have an alternative approach too.
Check out our Eat Great, Live Well Program. What have you got to lose – other than bad habits, excess weight, low self-esteem, and fad dieting?
Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?
You may also want to read: Is Healthier Fast Food on the Horizon?, Quick, Healthy Soda Alternatives, The Real Reason Behind Coke’s Anti-Obesity Ads, Can Small Changes Make a Big Difference in Your Health?