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966. Rising Incomes Improve Nutrition, So What if Food Prices Fall?

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966. Rising Incomes Improve Nutrition, So What if Food Prices Fall?


Today's post highlights an article from Nature Food (McCullough et al. 2024) that sheds light on the complex relationship between rising incomes, falling food prices, and nutrition, particularly in the context of Africa.
In Africa, the combination of high food prices and low incomes often limits access to nutritious diets for many consumers. However, the precise impact of changing prices and incomes on the dietary choices of African consumers remains a subject of ongoing research.
This paper addresses this issue by modeling consumer preferences using nationally representative household panel survey data in five sub-Saharan African countries. The objective was to understand how changes in food prices, total expenditure (similar to income), and other demand factors affect nutrient intake.
The results reveal a remarkable trend. As total expenditure increases among low-income consumers, there is a clear positive correlation with the adequacy of their nutrient intake, a relationship that appears to be stronger than previously recognized. This reinforces the notion that reducing poverty has a direct impact on improving diet quality.
The study also highlights the impact of staple food prices on dietary adequacy, particularly in countries where the diets of low-income consumers rely heavily on a single staple food (e.g., Malawi, Niger, Tanzania). Conversely, in countries with a more diverse staple food landscape (e.g., Uganda, Nigeria), the price of a single staple food has less of an impact on dietary adequacy for the poor.
It is worth noting that healthy diets often come with a higher price tag, creating a barrier to improved nutrition for poor consumers. However, research suggests that simply reducing the cost of healthy foods is not enough. Rather, a dual approach of reducing the price of staple foods, coupled with poverty reduction, tends to produce tangible improvements in diet quality.


McCullough, E.B., Lu, M., Nouve, Y. et al (2024). Nutrient adequacy for poor households in Africa would improve with higher income but not necessarily with lower food prices. Nat Food 5, 171–181. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-024-00927-w


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