(HealthDay News) — Consumers are more likely to buy high-calorie foods (HCF), but not low-calorie foods (LCF) on sale, according to a study published in the CDC’s Preventing Chronic Disease.

Etienne J. Phipps, PhD, from Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, and colleagues examined the correlations of discounted prices on supermarket purchases of high-calorie foods (HCFs) and more healthful low-calorie foods (LCFs). 

They analyzed electronic supermarket purchase data from 82 low-income (primarily African-American female) shoppers for households with children and qualitative data from focus groups with demographically similar shoppers.

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In analyses of 6,493 food purchase transactions over 65 weeks, the researchers found that the odds of buying foods on sale vs. at full price were higher for grain-based snacks (OR=6.6), sweet snacks (OR=5.9) and sugar-sweetened beverages (OR=2.6; P<.001 for all). There was no association for savory snacks. 

For LCFs, the odds of buying foods on sale vs. full price were not higher (P≥.07). For all HCFs and for fruits and vegetables, spending increased as percentage saved from full price increased (P≤.002), without controlling for quantities purchased. 

The lure of sale items encouraged stocking up, according to focus group participants.

“Strategies that shift supermarket sales promotions from price reductions for HCF to price reductions for LCF might help prevent obesity by decreasing purchases of HCF,” the researchers concluded.


  1. Phipps EJ et al. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014;11:140174.