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A rational eating model of binges, diets and obesity

  • Dragone, Davide

This paper addresses the rapid diffusion of obesity and the existence of different individual patterns of food consumption between non-dieters and chronic dieters. I propose a rational eating model where a forward-looking agent optimizes the intertemporal satisfaction from eating, taking into account the cost of changing consumption habits and the negative health consequences of having a non-optimal body weight. Consistent with the evidence, I show that the intertemporal maximization problem leads to a condition of overweightness, and that heterogeneity in the individual relevance of habits in consumption can determine the observed differences in the individual intertemporal patterns of food consumption and body weight. Sufficient conditions for determining when the convergence to the steady state implies oscillations or is monotonic are given. In the former case, the agent optimally alternates diets and binges until the steady state is reached, in the latter a regular intertemporal pattern of food consumption is optimal.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Health Economics.

Volume (Year): 28 (2009)
Issue (Month): 4 (July)
Pages: 799-804

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:28:y:2009:i:4:p:799-804
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505560

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  1. Levy, Amnon, 2002. "Rational eating: can it lead to overweightness or underweightness?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(5), pages 887-899, September.
  2. Boyer, Marcel, 1983. "Rational demand and expenditures patterns under habit formation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 27-53, October.
  3. Ryder, Harl E, Jr & Heal, Geoffrey M, 1973. "Optimum Growth with Intertemporally Dependent Preferences," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(1), pages 1-33, January.
  4. Pollak, Robert A, 1970. "Habit Formation and Dynamic Demand Functions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(4), pages 745-63, Part I Ju.
  5. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
  6. D. Dragone, 2009. "On the non existence of cyclical food-consumption patterns in a model of non-addictive eating," Working Papers 663, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  7. Boyer, Marcel, 1978. "A Habit Forming Optimal Growth Model," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 19(3), pages 585-609, October.
  8. Pollak, Robert A., 1976. "Habit formation and long-run utility functions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 272-297, October.
  9. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1986. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 41, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  10. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson & Jay Bhattacharya, 2005. "Welfare-Enhancing Technological Change and the Growth of Obesity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 253-257, May.
  11. Feichtinger, Gustav & Novak, Andreas & Wirl, Franz, 1994. "Limit cycles in intertemporal adjustment models : Theory and applications," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 353-380, March.
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