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Inequalities in diet and nutrition

Tiffin, R. and Salois, M. (2012) Inequalities in diet and nutrition. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 7 (1). pp. 105-111. ISSN 1475-2719

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/S0029665111003284


The inequality of nutrition and obesity re-focuses concern on who in society is consuming the worst diet. Identification of individuals with the worst of dietary habits permits for targeting interventions to assuage obesity among the population segment where it is most prevalent. We argue that the use of fiscal interventions does not appropriately take into account the economic, social and health circumstances of the intended beneficiaries of the policy. This paper reviews the influence of socio-demographic factors on nutrition and health status and considers the impacts of nutrition policy across the population drawing on methodologies from both public health and welfare economics. The effects of a fat tax on diet are found to be small and while other studies show that fat taxes saves lives, we show that average levels of disease risk do not change much: those consuming particularly bad diets continue to do so. Our results also suggest that the regressivity of the policy increases as the tax becomes focused on products with high saturated fat contents. A fiscally neutral policy that combines the fat tax with a subsidy on fruit and vegetables is actually more regressive because consumption of these foods tends to be concentrated in socially undeserving households. We argue that when inequality is of concern, population-based measures must reflect this and approaches that target vulnerable populations which have a shared propensity to adopt unhealthy behaviours are appropriate.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Agri-Food Economics & Marketing
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Food Security
ID Code:24681
Uncontrolled Keywords:Economic welfare: Fiscal food policy: Market failure: Obesity
Additional Information:The Summer Meeting of the Nutrition Society was held at the University of Reading on 4–6 July 2011 70th Anniversary Conference on ‘From plough through practice to policy’ Symposium 1: Food chain and health
Publisher:Cambridge University Press


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