Economic Contextual Influences on Population Diet and Obesity


Poor diet and obesity have been linked to increased risks for a number of chronic diseases including cancer and cardiovascular diseases. This research investigates the relationship between food (candy, baked goods, and chips), beverage (soda) and restaurant state sales taxes and food consumption patterns, diet quality, body mass index (BMI) and obesity prevalence among children, adolescents, and adults. This project builds substantially on the previous literature which has linked food prices but not taxes to individual-level population data. These food and beverage sales taxes are on items that are usually high in either sugar and/or fat and given that most of these taxes already exist in a number of states (with substantial variation across states) they are likely to be starting points for potential policy changes. Thus, this research provides policy makers with evidence on the extent to which implementing or increasing any of these state-level taxes is likely to affect food consumption behavior, diet quality and related BMI and obesity. All analyses control for the local area availability of food stores and restaurants. We are also examining specific analyses of low-income sub-samples and, in particular, low-income food stamp recipients and non-recipients separately because when purchased by food stamp recipients, such items are exempt from the tax. The specific aims of this project are threefold:

  1. Examine the relationship between soda, candy, baked goods, chips and restaurant sales taxes and dietary patterns (intake of taxed food/beverage items and consumption of FAFH) and diet quality (total caloric intake, % fat and/or % sugar in diet, and overall healthy eating index)
  2. Examine the relationship between soda, candy, baked goods, chips and restaurant sales taxes and BMI and obesity prevalence; and
  3. Examine the proposed relationships separately for low-income populations and assess the differences in tax sensitivity between low-income food stamp and non-food stamp recipients.

To accomplish these aims, this research will conduct secondary data analyses, using a unique combination of four types of data:

  1. State-level food, beverage and restaurant sales tax rates
  2. Local area outlet density measures of food stores and restaurants
  3. Local area socioeconomic status drawn from the Census
  4. Nationally representative population data on dietary intake and measured BMI for children, adolescents and adults from four data sets including three longitudinal surveys.

To our knowledge, this project represents the most comprehensive exploration to date of the contextual relationship between specific food, beverage and restaurant taxes and individuals’ dietary patterns, diet quality and BMI.

Given the serious public health risk posed by poor diet and obesity prevalence, this research can provide important information for policymakers and public health advocates about the potential effectiveness of implementing or increasing existing tax rates on soda, candy, baked goods, chips and restaurants.

Affiliated Center/Program

Principal investigator
Funding Agency

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Grant No. R01HL096664) of the National Institutes of Health with funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009


Carol Braunschweig, PhD, RD
Frank J. Chaloupka, PhD
Jamie F. Chriqui, PhD, MHS
Euna Han, PhD

Start date
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Related publications

See publications supported by this grant on this PubMed list

Taber DR, Chriqui JF, Powell LM, Perna FM, Robinson WR, Chaloupka FJ. Socioeconomic Differences in the Association Between Competitive Food Laws and the School Food Environment. J Sch Health. 2015 Sep;85(9):578-86. [See abstract.]

Nguyen BT, Powell LM. The impact of restaurant consumption among US adults: effects on energy and nutrient intakes. Public Health Nutr. 2014 Nov;17(11):2445-52. [See abstract.]

Chriqui JF, Chaloupka FJ, Powell LM, Eidson SS. A typology of beverage taxation: multiple approaches for obesity prevention and obesity prevention-related revenue generation. J Public Health Policy. 2013 Aug;34(3):403-23. [See abstract.]

Taber DR, Chriqui JF, Powell L, Chaloupka FJ. Association between state laws governing school meal nutrition content and student weight status. JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Jun 1;167(6):513-9. [See abstract.]

Han E, Powell LM. Consumption patterns of sugar-sweetened beverages in the United States. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Jan;113(1):43-53. [See abstract.]

Taber DR, Chriqui JF, Perna FM, Powell LM, Chaloupka FJ. Weight status among adolescents in States that govern competitive food nutrition content. Pediatrics. 2012 Sep;130(3):437-44. [See abstract.]

Taber DR, Chriqui JF, Powell LM, Chaloupka FJ. Banning all sugar-sweetened beverages in middle schools: reduction of in-school access and purchasing but not overall consumption. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012 Mar;166(3):256-62. [See abstract.]