(HealthDay News) — Children living in areas where fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive have higher body mass indexes (BMIs), according to a study published online February 10 in Pediatrics.

Taryn W. Morrissey, PhD, from the American University in Washington, DC, and colleagues linked data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (covering children up to 5 years old) and the Council for Community and Economic Research (for local food prices). The effect of variability of food prices on BMI was analyzed for households under 300% of the Federal Poverty Level.

The researchers found that children living in areas with higher-priced fruits and vegetables had higher BMIs, which was driven by changes in the prices of fresh fruits and vegetables rather than frozen or canned. Higher-priced fruits and vegetables were not associated with food insecurity. A $0.24 increase in prices was associated with an 0.088–0.107 increase in the BMI z score. Higher soft drink prices were associated with a lower risk of being overweight, while higher fast food prices were associated with a greater risk of being overweight.

“Policies that reduce the costs of fresh fruits and vegetables may be effective in promoting healthy weight outcomes among young children,” Morrissey and colleagues conclude.

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