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Cost and Affordability of the EAT- Lancet Diet in 159 Countries

22 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2019

See all articles by Kalle Hirvonen

Kalle Hirvonen

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Yan Bai

Tufts University - Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

Derek Headey

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

William A. Masters

Tufts University - Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; Tufts University - Department of Economics

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Abstract

Background: The EAT-Lancet Commission drew on all available nutritional and environmental evidence to construct the first global benchmark diet capable of sustaining health and protecting the planet, but did not consider cost. We added data on food prices and calculated affordability to guide intervention towards improved diets around the world.

Methods: We obtained retail price observations used by the World Bank to measure poverty, and identified the most affordable foods to meet EAT-Lancet targets. We compared total cost per day to each country's gross national income, computed the fraction of people for whom the most affordable EAT-Lancet diet exceeds household income, and measured affordability relative to a least-cost diet with only essential nutrients.

Findings: We found prices for 744 items across 159 countries, revealing that the most affordable EAT-Lancet diets cost a global average of $2·89 per day (IQR: 2·41-3·16) in 2011, of which the largest share was the cost of fruits and vegetables (31·2 %), followed by legumes and nuts (18·7 %), meat, eggs & fish (15·2 %) and dairy (13·2 %). This diet costs a small fraction of available resources in high-income countries, but is not affordable for the world's poor. We estimated that the cost of an EATLancet diet exceeded household income for at least 1·56 billion people. The EAT-Lancet diet is also more expensive than the minimum cost of sufficient nutrients; on average, by a factor of 1·64 (IQR: 1·41-1·78).

Interpretation: Current diets differ greatly from EAT-Lancet targets. Improving diets is affordable in many countries, but for many people would require some combination of higher income, nutrition assistance, and lower prices. Data and analysis on the cost of healthier foods is needed to inform both local interventions and systemic changes.

Funding Statement: This study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the project Advancing Research on Nutrition and Agriculture (AReNA), Phase II (Investment ID: OPP1177007). The cost of nutrient adequacy component draws on data and methods from a related project funded by UKAid and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, entitled Changing Access to Nutritious Diets in Africa and South Asia (CANDASA, OPP1182628).

Declaration of Interests: The authors state: "None."

Ethics Approval Statement: Not required.

Keywords: Global Health, Sustainable Diets, Nutrition, Diet Quality

Suggested Citation

Hirvonen, Kalle and Bai, Yan and Headey, Derek and Masters, William A., Cost and Affordability of the EAT- Lancet Diet in 159 Countries (June 17, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3405576

Kalle Hirvonen

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

Yan Bai

Tufts University - Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy ( email )

Boston, MA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://ianda.nutrition.tufts.edu/team/yan-bai-mib

Derek Headey

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

William A. Masters (Contact Author)

Tufts University - Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy ( email )

150 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02111
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.tufts.edu/willmasters

Tufts University - Department of Economics ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

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