The Medical Cost Savings of Changes to Healthier US Diets

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Abstract

In this article, we estimate the medical cost savings resulting from the adoption of healthier diets in the United States, namely the Finnish, French, Greek, and Japanese diets. We first use regression analysis to estimate the change in BMI associated with each alternative diet. Then, we obtain the medical cost savings from these changes in BMI using the most recent estimates from the literature. We find that the Greek diet may reduce per capita medical expenditures by $651.15 annually when calories are kept constant at the US level, but dietary composition shifts. However, when both total calories and dietary composition vary, the Japanese diet results in a $704.62 decrease in per capita medical costs. If the US population were to shift to any of these healthier diets, we estimate the reduction in total annual medical expenditures would range from $147 to $217 billion.