The high price of healthy food … and the low price of unhealthy food

Poor diets are now the No. 1 risk factor in the global burden of disease (GBD), accounting for one in five deaths globally. Too much sugar, fat, and red meat increase the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—all killers in later life (mostly in higher income countries). Too little nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs, meat, and fish are associated with wasting, stunting, and micronutrient deficiencies in early childhood—all killers in early life (mostly in lower income countries). Poor diets are therefore at the epicenter of a diverse range of health problems in a diverse range of places.

Is it possible, though, that the nature of the global food system creates different dietary problems in rich and poor countries alike? That’s the question we ask in a new paper in The Journal of Nutrition, in which we analyze consumer food prices for 657 products in 176 countries surveyed by the World Bank’s International Comparison Program (ICP).

Photo: IFPRI