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Supermarket Coupons are Centered Around Unhealthy Foods

Update Date: Jan 29, 2014 02:53 PM EST
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People have often complained that eating healthy is more costly. However, a recent study revealed that healthier options are only slightly more expensive. Despite the minor difference in costs, a new study found that supermarket coupons tend to promote junk food and sugary beverages. Even though these coupons might keep the wallets fuller, the food options end up expanding waistlines and increasing future medical costs.

"We know from other studies that when you lower the price of foods, people buy more of them," said study author Dr. Hilary Seligman, assistant professor in residence at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. "When junk foods are the foods stores are lowering the prices of, we shouldn't be surprised that more of them are purchased."

For this study, Seligman and colleagues examined over 1,000 online coupons that were being promoted by six major chain supermarkets in April 2013. The researchers calculated that 25 percent of the coupons, which was the largest percentage, were for processed snack foods, which include chips, crackers and desserts. Frozen dinners and prepared meals came in second at 14 percent. 12 percent of the coupons were for beverages with about 50 percent of them being sugary drinks. 11 percent of the coupons were for cereal, 10 percent for condiments, and eight percent for processed meats, such as bacon and hot dogs.

For healthier options, the researchers found that there were barely any coupons available. The researchers found that three percent of the coupons helped reduce the prices for fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Four percent of the coupons could be used for milk, eggs or yogurt. For unprocessed meats, only one percent of the coupons were available.

"Coupons are about marketing, not health," commented Nestle, who wasn't involved in the new research, reported by Medical Xpress.

The study suggests that coupons could be potentially used to encourage healthy eating. By making more coupons for healthier foods available, more people might choose better food options. The findings were published in the journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.

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