Nearly $50 billion from the annual healthcare expenses spent on cardiometabolic patients in the US could be saved if people start to eat healthily. A joint study from research teams of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University reveal these results. The complete study findings are published in “PLOS Medicine” and are available online to read.
Eating unhealthy food is one of the major contributors to health decline. More than 45% of deaths are caused by cardiometabolic diseases (CMD) that include heart diseases, diabetes, etc. Healthcare for these diseases is not only a financial burden on the patient and his family but also adds up to a national economic burden.
In this new study, the researchers investigated 10 dietary factors that affect cardiometabolic diseases. These factors include eating fresh fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, and meats. They compared these eating habits with annual CMD expenses. The study concluded that the cost of a suboptimal diet per person is nearly $300. That makes approximately $50 bi nationally.
Author of this study, Thomas Gaziano, from Brigham, says that;
“Our study indicates that the foods we purchase at the grocery store can have a big impact. I was surprised to see a reduction of as much as 20 percent of the costs associated with these cardiometabolic diseases.”
He further adds that only by changing diet, the risk and money spent on heart diseases, diabetes, etc could be saved.
The study focuses on 10 food types. That is as follows.
- Whole grains
- Unprocessed meats
- Processed meats
- Sugar-sweetened beverages
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Seafood omega-3 fats
The study used data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and representative groups of individuals that age between 35-85 years.
The researchers named this model a CVD PREDICT model. Following this model, they were able to analyze the risk of cardiometabolic disease and all expenses spent on treatment facilities on the sample population groups. This study was based on their current dietary pattern and then this risk was re-calculated by optimizing it to a healthy diet.
The results showed that following suboptimal diets costs approximately $301 to everyone spent in cardiometabolic diseases. Calculating it for a larger population makes it more than $50 billion and, 84 percent of this is spent in acute healthcare services. Medicare users were estimated to pay an expense ($481/person) and people eligible to Medicare and Medicaid both were estimated to pay even higher ($536/person).
Co-author of the study, Renata Micha from Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts says that;
“We have accumulated evidence from the Food-PRICE collaborative research work to support policy changes focused on improving health at a population level. One driver for those changes is identifying the exorbitant economic burden associated with chronic diseases caused by our poor diets. This study provides additional evidence that those costs are unacceptable. While individuals can and do make changes, we need innovative new solutions—incorporating policymakers, the agricultural and food industry, healthcare organizations, and advocacy/non-profit organizations—to implement changes to improve the health of all Americans,”
There are chances that this current study has underestimated the price of unhealthy food. Also, it only focuses on ten dietary factors however there could be more that would affect it.
In addition to this, this study only investigated the data taken from food questionnaires of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
It is possible for the respondents of this survey to underreported their food choices or inaccurately report about their diet. All this suggests more detailed research to explain the relation of dietary habits and healthcare expenses in detail.