HealthDay News — Children living in areas where fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive have higher body mass indexes (BMIs), according to researchers.

“Health professionals working with low-income children in areas with high-cost foods should be aware of the potential for heightened risk of overweight or obesity, and may consider referring households to programs that provide reduced-price healthy foods,” Taryn W. Morrissey, PhD, from the American University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues reported in Pediatrics.

Taryn W. Morrissey, PhD, from the American University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues linked data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (covering children up to 5 years old) and the Council for Community and Economic Research (for local food prices). The effect of variability of food prices on BMI was analyzed for households under 300% of the Federal Poverty Level.

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Children living in areas with higher-priced fruits and vegetables had higher BMIs, which was driven by changes in the prices of fresh fruits and vegetables rather than frozen or canned, the researchers found. Higher-priced fruits and vegetables were not associated with food insecurity.

A $0.24 increase in prices was associated with an 0.088 to 0.107 increase in the BMI z score. Higher soft drink prices were associated with a lower risk of being overweight, the researchers found.

Contrary to expectations, higher fast food prices were also associated with a greater risk of being overweight. This finding may be due to the practice of fast food corporations responding to higher demand in certain locals by increasing prices, the researchers hypothesized.

“Policies that reduce the costs of fresh fruits and vegetables may be effective in promoting healthy weight outcomes among young children,” the researchers concluded.


  1. Morrissey T et al. Pediatrics. 2014; doi:10.1542/peds.2013-1963.