Healthy Food Is Growing More Expensive than Unhealthy Food: Study

New research gives more insight into food pricing. Kham/ Reuters

Last December, researchers at Harvard published a paper scientifically examining a complaint common among conscientious eaters -- that healthy food is more expensive than junk. That paper, published in British Medical Journal, found that eating a healthy diet costs approximately $1.50 more per day.

Today, researchers in the United Kingdom published a study in PLOS ONE that gives yet more insight into this topic: not only is healthy food more costly than unhealthy food but the price gap between them has grown significantly over a 10-year period.

The researchers, led by Nicholas Jones from the University of Cambridge, used data from the UK Consumer Price Index to track the cost of 94 foods and beverages from 2002 to 2012. They also used a technique called "nutrient profiling" to determine which foods might be considered healthy and unhealthy, based on information such as the amount of saturated fat and sugar per 100g.

What they found: in 2012, 1000 kcal of "healthy" food cost approximately $12, while 1000 kcal of unhealthy food cost only $4. And while the mean price of all foods rose 35 percent over that 10-year period, the researchers found that "the price of more healthy foods was consistently greater than that of less healthy foods over the period 2002–2012, and that the absolute price gap between healthy and less healthy foods has grown over this period."

"Food poverty and the rise of food banks have recently been an issue of public concern in the UK," Jones said in a statement about the research," but as well as making sure people don't go hungry it is vital that that a healthy diet is affordable."