Use of linear programming to develop cost- minimized nutritionally adequate health promoting food baskets
Parlesak A., Tetens I., Jensen JD., Smed S., Blenkuš MG., Rayner M., Darmon N., Robertson A.
© 2016 Parlesak et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Background: Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDGs) are developed to promote healthier eating patterns, but increasing food prices may make healthy eating less affordable. The aim of this study was to design a range of cost-minimized nutritionally adequate health-promoting food baskets (FBs) that help prevent both micronutrient inadequacy and diet-related non-communicable diseases at lowest cost. Methods: Average prices for 312 foods were collected within the Greater Copenhagen area. The cost and nutrient content of five different cost-minimized FBs for a family of four were calculated per day using linear programming. The FBs were defined using five different constraints: cultural acceptability (CA), or dietary guidelines (DG), or nutrient recommendations (N), or cultural acceptability and nutrient recommendations (CAN), or dietary guidelines and nutrient recommendations (DGN). The variety and number of foods in each of the resulting five baskets was increased through limiting the relative share of individual foods. Results: The one-day version of N contained only 12 foods at the minimum cost of DKK 27 (€ 3.6). The CA, DG, and DGN were about twice of this and the CAN cost ∼DKK 81 (€ 10.8). The baskets with the greater variety of foods contained from 70 (CAN) to 134 (DGN) foods and cost between DKK 60 (€ 8.1, N) and DKK 125 (€ 16.8, DGN). Ensuring that the food baskets cover both dietary guidelines and nutrient recommendations doubled the cost while cultural acceptability (CAN) tripled it. Conclusion: Use of linear programming facilitates the generation of low-cost food baskets that are nutritionally adequate, health promoting, and culturally acceptable.