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Does a healthy diet have to come at a hefty price? Three experts advise how to dodge extortionate groceries

As numerous studies show, many find healthy diets to be too expensive
And research shows many think more expensive means healthy
Here three marketing experts from the universities of Vanderbilt, Georgia and Ohio State explain why some food is so expensive – and how to beat it…
By Kelly L. Haws and Kevin L. Sample and Rebecca Walker Reczek For The Conversation
PUBLISHED: 17:36, 4 January 2017 | UPDATED: 19:00, 4 January 2017

Imagine you’re in the aisle of your favorite grocery store, bombarded with hundreds of the latest and greatest products on the market. After grabbing a box of your favorite pasta off the shelf, you notice a new organic version of the spaghetti sauce you usually buy.

Strikingly, you notice that the price is at almost a 50 percent premium compared to what your usual sauce costs.

Here we go again, you think: You have to empty your wallet to buy the ‘healthy’ stuff.

If this describes how you think about the relationship between food health and price, you’re not alone. This belief is so pervasive that tips on how to eat healthy on a budget are everywhere, implying that most consumers think this is a truly difficult task.

Who hasn’t heard Whole Foods’ nickname, ‘Whole Paycheck,’ or seen incredibly cheap pricing on unhealthy fast food?

Measuring the relationship between health and price of food is in fact difficult as it can be evaluated in a variety of ways, from price per calorie to price per average portion.

So how pervasive is the view that ‘healthy = expensive’ and why do consumers think this way?

In a series of studies recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, we found that consumers do tend to believe that healthy foods are in fact more expensive.

While this may actually hold true in only some product categories, we discovered that many consumers tend to believe this relationship holds across all categories, regardless of the evidence.

Consumers and lay theories
Consumers appear to have a lay theory, or an intuition, that healthy foods are more expensive.
Discussions around food deserts – low-income geographical areas with limited access to affordable nutritious foods – also suggest that healthy foods are indeed more expensive than unhealthy ones.
Consumers also have lay theories about food: for example, believing that unhealthy foods are tastier, regardless of whether this is objectively true.
The marketplace and the media appear to have taught most U.S. consumers to expect foods with special health properties to command a premium price.
While this is the case in some instances (for example, the USDA notes a price premium for many organic foods), in other cases a general positive relationship between price and healthiness may not exist.
A lay theory, in psychology, is the term for a nonexpert’s belief about how the world works. We can have lay theories about how everything from self-control to intelligence works. And these lay theories influence how we behave.
Consumers also have lay theories about food: for example, believing that unhealthy foods are tastier, regardless of whether this is objectively true.
In our research, we document a new lay theory consumers have about food: that healthy foods are more expensive.
In other words, unlike other research exploring whether there is a true relationship between food health and price, we were interested in understanding how this belief (regardless of whether it is objectively true) influences our food choices.
Across five studies, we showed that even in food categories where there is no relation between price and health, the healthy = expensive intuition affects how consumers make decisions about food.

How a food’s price equates to health
Diving deeper into understanding what’s going on in the mind of the consumer, we wanted to know: Do higher price points drive consumers to think of something as healthier? Or do cues about healthiness lead consumers to believe that the price is higher?
In our studies, we found that the intuition seems to operate in both directions. That is, in our first study, we showed that when consumers were presented with price information only, perceptions of the healthiness of a breakfast bar varied with the price: higher price = healthier, lower price = less healthy.
Similarly, when given a nutrition grade of an ‘A-,’ the sort of summary analyses provided by various websites, including, the breakfast bar was estimated as more expensive than when the same bar was graded as a ‘C.’
In another study, consumers were asked to choose the healthier of two similar chicken wraps.
When the ‘Roasted Chicken Wrap’ was priced at US $8.95 versus a ‘Chicken Balsamic Wrap’ for $6.95, people chose roasted over balsamic.
But when the prices were flipped, so were the choices. That is, people were actively choosing the more expensive option because they believed it was healthier.

Another study showed that food products running counter to the healthy = expensive intuition – that is, a product claiming to be healthy but offered at a less expensive than average price for the product category – led consumers to seek out more supporting evidence before they bought into a generic health claim.
Specifically, study participants presented with a $0.99 protein bar (after being told that the average price for protein bars is $2 per bar) chose to view, on average, more than three online reviews before rating how likely they would be to buy the product themselves compared with two reviews when the protein bar had a $4 price tag.
It simply took more convincing when the price seems too good to be true for stated health claims.
What is healthy?
The impact of belief in the healthy = expensive intuition, however, goes beyond just general inferences about price and health.
In another study, we found that consumers used this intuition when valuing the importance of an unfamiliar specific ingredient in a food product.
We asked participants to assess the importance of the inclusion of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – which we told them helps reverse macular degeneration, an age-associated eye disease that can lead to vision loss – in a trail mix.
When the DHA trail mix was sold at a premium price, participants put a higher value on both DHA and the underlying health condition.
When it was sold at an average price, participants weren’t as persuaded that their diet should include DHA or that preventing macular degeneration was as important.
Interestingly, it was the unfamiliarity of DHA that drove these inferences. When vitamin A was associated with the same health claim, a relative price premium didn’t alter perceptions of how important vitamin A is as an ingredient.
This study suggests that people are more likely to rely on their lay theories when assessing health claims that are unfamiliar – a situation they likely face often at the grocery store as food manufacturers frequently introduce new products claiming to include the latest health ingredient.
Ignore your gut
Together, our studies reveal that consumers have a pervasive tendency to associate healthier food products and higher prices.
If one is operating with an unlimited budget while trying to cook and serve healthy meals, then perhaps this isn’t a problem.
However, those trying to manage a food budget and feel good about the healthiness of their family meals may pay too much for their nutrition. This can occur despite ready availability of both pricing and nutritional information.
What is the takeaway for consumers? We all know that price and quality aren’t perfectly correlated, but it doesn’t stop us from using price to judge quality when we don’t have other information.
So if you’re truly concerned about choosing healthy foods without overpaying, stop and think next time you see a health claim paired with a high price rather than relying on your gut feelings.
A simple solution to overcoming the influence of the intuition is to seek out more information before you buy.
Getting more information, which mobile devices let consumers do easily, even while shopping in a store, will enable you to rely on more careful, systematic thinking about the health claim being presented – rather than just your gut’s take that a healthy idea requires emptying your wallet.
This article was originally published by The Conversation

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Could this medical breakthrough help cure Alzheimer’s? Scientists identify rogue proteins behind disease

By James Draper For Mailonline
PUBLISHED: 18:00, 4 January 2017 | UPDATED: 18:00, 4 January 2017
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have identified how the neurological conditions develop differently between patients
The finding could revolutionise medical treatment and even lead to new drugs
About 850,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s in the UK, a figure expected to to rise to a million by 2025
The treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease could be revolutionised after a breakthrough discovery by US scientists.

Researchers at Maryland’s National Institutes of Health have identified how the neurological condition develops differently between patients – a move which offers fresh scope for better, more-targeted drugs.


The findings, published in medical journal Nature on Wednesday, shed fresh light on the toxic chemicals behind dementia and offers renewed hope of a remedy.

Game-changer: The latest findings will further develop the way medicine can treat dementia

One of the main causes of dementia is the clumping together of a protein known as amyloid beta.

It has been suggested different formations of these fine fibres, or fibrils, may be linked with different forms of Alzheimer’s.

So the researchers, lead by Dr Robert Tycko, analysed 37 brain tissue samples from 18 individuals who had died from either typical Alzheimer’s or two unusual subtypes of the disease.

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Exhausted? Nearly HALF of girls aged 11-18 and a quarter or working women have an iron deficiency

By MailOnline Reporter
PUBLISHED: 19:03, 3 January 2017 | UPDATED: 15:02, 4 January 2017


Iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the UK, with almost half the girls aged 11 to 18, and more than a quarter of working-age women, falling short of intakes needed for good health.
A recent survey found that four out of five women have struggled with extreme tiredness and two-thirds of women in the UK have experienced more than one episode of exhaustion.
Iron and energy levels are interlinked because we need the mineral to make haemoglobin, the bit in red blood cells which transports oxygen around the body.

Tired? A recent survey found that four out of five women have struggled with extreme tiredness and two-thirds have experienced more than one episode of exhaustion
Women are at greatest risk of iron deficiency because of blood loss during monthly menstruation, but vegetarians and those who avoid red meat are also likely to be low.
But new research shows that long term deficiency can also contribute to hearing loss.
Dr Hilary Jones says: ‘Tiredness is one of the most common problems doctors see in general practice, but by the time people reach their GP they have often been struggling for weeks or months.
‘And paradoxically it’s often the ‘healthiest’ people who are not getting their requirements from diet.’
Studies have shown that a third of female athletes are deficient in iron and 56 per cent of joggers and regular runners are also low. Dr Jones explains: ‘Runners lose a lot of iron through foot-strike haemolysis, where red blood cells are ruptured as the foot hits the ground.

Gender difference: Women are at greatest risk of iron deficiency because of blood loss during monthly menstruation
Swapping red meat, which is a rich source of readily absorbed iron, for chicken, fish and vegetarian options is also undermining iron intakes.
In the past two years, women’s average red meat intake has dropped by 13 per cent — and over the same period the number of who fall short of the minimum recommended intake of iron has leapt by 17 per cent.
Dr Jones says: ‘There are some obvious dietary changes, like eating more red meat, which will help improve your iron levels. But for many women, supplements are really the only solution — and that also presents problems, as most come with some pretty unpleasant side-effects.
‘Oral iron supplements are often poorly absorbed. Three-quarters of women experience gastrointestinal side-effects such as pain, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea and around 40 per cent regularly skip doses of their oral iron medication, or stop taking it all together.’
He adds: ‘The problem is that conventional iron supplements start oxidising and forming free radicals in the stomach, which is why you get the side-effects. It’s rusting, if you like, and the iron isn’t being absorbed.’


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Rob Hobson, head of nutrition at Healthspan
The obesity epidemic is so huge it will take more than 30 years to fix, the Government has admitted.

Public health officials predict that it will be a decade before national sugar consumption is cut by just a fifth.
The stark admission by the Department of Health earlier this week comes just months after it released the long-awaited childhood obesity strategy.
Richard Sangster, head of obesity policy, said there was no quick fix to a ‘highly complex issue’.
‘It’s a problem that has taken 30 years or so to get to this point,’ he said. ‘It’s going to take a similar amount of time to tackle this issue.’
Poor diet and lifestyle have been blamed for fat becoming ‘the new normal’, with 61 per cent of adults officially classed as overweight or obese.
The strategy was a response to figures which revealed a third of children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school.
Speaking at a meeting chaired by Tory MP Maggie Throup, a member of the health select committee, Mr Sangster insisted Britain was leading the way in tackling obesity.
‘We think the obesity plan will give us around a fifth reduction in ten years,’ he said. ‘If we achieve that, that would be fantastic – no country in the world has reduced levels of obesity.’

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5 reasons which make porridge the healthiest breakfast option…


Nutritionist Cassandra Barns explains exactly why porridge is good for you
Oats are a natural source of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium
They also provide slow-releasing carbohydrates to help replenish muscles
Proven to lower cholesterol by stopping it being absorbed into the blood

Whether you enjoy it with almonds, blueberries or a sprinkle of cinnamon – porridge is one of the healthiest breakfast options.
Other than being low in fat, the oatmeal dish is a great source of minerals, fibre and slow-releasing carbohydrates.
Researchers from Harvard University previously found wholegrains, such as oats, were the key to living longer.
Here Cassandra Barns, a London-based nutritionist, reveals the 5 reasons why porridge makes the best breakfast.


Oats are a good source of slow-releasing energy and, unlike most other breakfast cereals, don’t contain any added sugar,’ says Ms Barns.
‘This means they can help to keep your energy stable until lunchtime, rather than causing a crash by mid-morning!’

‘Being whole grains, oats are a natural source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B1, magnesium, iron, manganese and zinc, which have many vital roles in the body including supporting energy and immunity,’ she adds.
Most breakfast cereals are low in these natural nutrients and have to be fortified with synthetic vitamins, which may not be as easily used by our body.

Magnesium is often lacking in the average diet, and so many of us may not get enough.
‘It’s one of the nutrients that’s essential for our cells to make energy,’ Ms Barns says.
She recommends Nairn’s Scottish Porridge Oats as a particularly good source of magnesium.
Porridge is a great breakfast for fitness fanatics and gym-goers either before or after training, the nutritionist claims.
‘The slow-releasing carbohydrates in oats are fantastic for powering a workout or for restoring muscles after training, and magnesium is vital for muscle function too,’ Ms Barns adds.
Oats provide slow-releasing carbohydrates to help replenish muscle glycogen – the energy stored in muscles.
‘Porridge can easily be “dressed up” to increase its deliciousness and nutrient content,’ she says.
Add fresh berries for the tang and sweetness, vitamin C and antioxidants.


Stir in chopped nuts or seeds to increase the protein content and healthy fats.
Or sprinkle over a teaspoon of cinnamon, which has warming qualities for the winter, and may help with balancing blood sugar, Ms Barns advises.
‘The fibre in porridge oats may help to lower cholesterol naturally,’ she says.
Oats are a much better way to lower your cholesterol than popular cholesterol-lowering spreads, which are made with hydrogenated, unnatural fats.
They contain a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which helps stop cholesterol being absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal walls.
Dietary fibre has also been known to help people maintain a healthy weight, which in turn reduces the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Porridge is known to have around 4g of fibre per bowl, where as cornflakes has less than 0.3g.