The Economics of Food Choice Behavior: Why Poverty and Obesity are Linked

Speaker: Prof. A. Drewnowski Presented at: 73rd Nestlé Nutrition Institute Workshop, San Diego, USA

Summary

Dr Adam Drewnowski provides a fascinating look at how socio-economic factors influence food choice, and thereby, the prevalence of obesity. In doing so, Drewnowski challenges several basic concepts, including the way we stratify obesity, how we measure wealth, and equal access to healthy foods. Seattle King County provides the backdrop for Drewnowski's investigations. First, he stratifies the wealth of the county down to the finest possible resolution using property value as a key indicator. Next, he tracks the food shopping patterns of a random sample of adults - revealing the surprising finding that most travel away from their neighborhoods to shop.
Finally, Drewnowski analyzes the food pricing of several supermarket chains, relating food quality to food cost. Throughout the talk, he demonstrates how each of these variables is linked to the distribution of obese people in Seattle King County. This integrated approach captures the key socio-economic parameters that drive the obesity epidemic, providing a model for understanding the drivers of obesity around the world.