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Beyond Wishful Thinking: Integrating Consumer Preferences in the Assessment of Dietary Recommendations

Abstract : Convenience, taste, and prices are the main determinants of food choices. Complying with dietary recommendations therefore imposes a “taste cost” on consumers, potentially hindering adoption of those recommendations. The study presents and applies a new methodology, based on economic theory, to quantify this taste cost and assess the health and welfare effects of different dietary recommendations. Then, by comparison of those effects, we identify socially desirable recommendations that are most compatible with consumer preferences (i.e., that best balance health benefits against”taste cost”) and should be prioritized for promotion. The methodology proceeds in three-steps: first, an economic-behavioral model simulates how whole diets would change if consumers complied with dietary recommendations; second, an epidemiological model estimates the number of deaths avoided (DA) due to the dietary change; third, an efficiency analysis weighs the health benefits against the taste and policy costs of each recommendation. The empirical model is calibrated using French data. We find that recommendations to reduce consumption of red meat and soft-drinks, or raise consumption of milk products and fish/seafood impose relatively moderate taste costs. By comparison, recommendations related to F&V consumption and, to a lesser extent, butter/cream/cheese, snacks, and all meats impose larger taste costs on consumers. The F&V recommendation is the costliest for consumers to comply with, but it also reduces diet-related mortality the most, so that a large budget could be allocated to promoting F&V consumption while keeping this policy cost-beneficial. We conclude that promotion of most dietary recommendations improves social welfare. Our framework complements the programming models available in nutrition and public health: those models are best used to identify dietary targets, following which our framework identifies cost-beneficial ways of moving towards those targets.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, May 27, 2020 - 10:53:51 AM
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Xavier Irz, Pascal Leroy, Vincent Requillart, Louis Georges Soler. Beyond Wishful Thinking: Integrating Consumer Preferences in the Assessment of Dietary Recommendations. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2016, 11 (6), pp.1-17. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0158453⟩. ⟨hal-02632528⟩

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