HealthDay News — Consumers are more likely to purchase high-calorie food items, fruits and vegetables on discount than low-calorie food products, according to a study published in Preventing Chronic Disease.

“The obesity epidemic has drawn attention to food marketing practices that may increase the likelihood of caloric overconsumption and weight gain,” wrote Etienne J. Phipps, PhD, of Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, and colleagues.

To examine the effect of discounted prices on supermarket purchases of high-calorie foods and more healthful low-calorie foods, the investigators analyzed electronic supermarket purchase data from 82 low-income shoppers for households with children and qualitative data from focus groups with demographically similar shoppers.

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The odds of buying foods on sale versus at full prices were higher for grain-based snacks (odds ratio [OR], 6.6), sweet snacks (OR, 5.9), and sugar-sweetened beverages (OR, 2.6; all P<0.001). There was no association for savory snacks.

For low-calorie foods, the odds of buying foods on sale versus full price were not higher (P≥ 0.07). For all high-calorie foods and for fruits and vegetables, spending increased as percentage saved from full price increased (P≤ 0.002), without controlling for quantities purchased. The lure of sale items encouraged stocking up, according to focus group participants.

“Strategies that shift supermarket sales promotions from price reductions for high-calorie foods to price reductions for low-calorie foods might help prevent obesity by decreasing purchases of high-calorie foods,” concluded the researchers.


  1. Phipps E et al. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2014; doi: