We examine the effect of food prices on clinical measures of obesity, including body mass index (BMI) and percentage body fat (PBF) measures derived from bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) and dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), among youths ages 12 through 18 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
This is the first study to consider clinically measured levels of body composition rather than BMI to investigate the effects of food prices on obesity outcomes among youths classified by gender and race/ethnicity.
Our findings suggest that increases in the real price per calorie of food for home consumption and the real price of fast-food restaurant food lead to improvements in obesity outcomes among youths. We also find that a rise in the real price of fruits and vegetables leads to increased obesity.
Finally, our results indicate that measures of PBF derived from BIA and DXA are no less sensitive and in some cases more sensitive to the prices just mentioned than BMI, and serve an important role in demonstrating that rising food prices (except fruit and vegetable prices) are indeed associated with reductions in obesity rather than with reductions in body size proportions alone.