Canadians seem unwilling to follow food guidelines for the sake of their health, but a new study from the University of Alberta may convince them to do it for the sake of their wallets.

An annual price tag of $13.8 billion in direct and indirect health-care costs is what Jessica Lieffers, postdoctoral fellow, estimates Canadians have created out of their eating habits.

Direct costs include visiting the doctor or hospital and medication, while indirect ones are measured in lost productivity from long- and short-term disability.

Lieffers studied how consuming eight different foods (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, milk, red meat, processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages) affect a person’s chance of contracting a chronic disease, such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

“They were all foods that had either convincing or probable evidence in their association with chronic disease risk,” she said.

The first five all reduce the risk of chronic disease, while the last three all increase it.

The study then calculated the costs of chronic diseases on the health-care system and how much is attributable to either the lack of consumption or over consumption of the eight foods.

The results showed that poor food choices by Canadians create almost as great a strain on the health-care system as smoking does.

It also showed that $6.5 billion is attributable to not eating enough nuts, seeds and whole grains, and $1.9 billion to eating too much processed meats.

Perhaps surprisingly, the cost of over-consuming processed meat was more than twice that of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Lieffers said she hopes her research helps to make consumers more aware of the consequences of what they put in their bodies.

“If everyone made small dietary changes, it could go a long way at the population level,” she said.

This article originally appeared in The Calgary Herald on May 13, 2018. Read the original article here:

Other Coverage

Edmonton Journal, May 13 2018

St. Albert Gazette, May 23 2018

CBC Edmonton Radio Active, May 10 2018

630 CHED The Ryan Jespersen Show, May 15 2018

770 CHQR Calgary Today with Angela Kokott, May 16 2018

The Gateway, June 25