Economic valuation of the potential health benefits from foods enriched with plant sterols in Canada
AbstractBackground: Increased consumption of foods containing plant sterols has the potential to reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) and thus reduce costs associated with treating that disease in a significant way. This paper reports the results of an investigation of the potential monetary benefits of allowing foods enriched with plant sterols to be marketed in Canada. Objective: The objective of this research was to estimate the annual savings that would accrue to Canada’s single-payer publicly funded health care system if plant sterols were approved for use. If foods containing plant sterols are consumed at a sufficient rate, a reduction in CHD should follow. Given the significant costs associated with CHD, approval of plant sterols in Canada has important public policy implications. Design: This research employs a variation of traditional cost-of-illness analysis entailing four steps: (1) estimation of a ‘success rate’ (proportion of persons who would consume plant sterols at the necessary rate); (2) presumption of blood cholesterol reduction due to plant sterol consumption; (3) assumption of reduction in CHD that follows from blood cholesterol reduction; and (4) calculation of cost savings associated with reduced incidence of CHD. Results: Calculations were carried out for four scenarios: ideal, optimistic, pessimistic, and very pessimistic. It was estimated that between $38 million (very pessimistic scenario) and $2.45 billion (ideal scenario) could be saved annually by Canada’s health care system with plant sterol-enriched food products being made available for sale. Conclusion: Significant expenditure reductions within Canada’s publicly funded health care system could be realized with plant sterols approved for sale. Reduced CHD resulting from lower blood cholesterol levels would lessen the financial burden of disease in Canada.
Keywords: coronary heart disease; cost-of-illness analysis; health care costs; success rate
(Published: 7 October 2010)
Citation: Food & Nutrition Research 2010. 54: 5113 - DOI: 10.3402/fnr.v54i0.5113
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