Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Diet Problem

What is the cheapest way to feed yourself? This is not a minor issue our diets and health could be much better if they were optimised to provide the most needed nutrients at the smallest cost and also to provide the most palatable diet that is as healthy as possible.

Stigler in 1939 worked out a near optimal miminum price needed to supply a person with the nutrients they need for a year. The diet consists of five not very pleasant foods so is not intended to be realistic dietry advice.

Still given current knowledge of nutrition a list of prices from various supermarkets could you optimise you shopping basket to provide your family with groceries? Here we want to give people the nutrients they need in a form they will actually eat that is healthy and cheap.

We need a list of
1. What nutrients are needed by a person
2. Foods preferences of people.
3. A price list of foods
4. A Linear program to optimize a shopping basket based on these variables.

All of these requirements need some explanation. I think its best if each gets it's own post. So tomorrow I will have a post on what quantities of nutrients people require. If you have any suggestions please comment.

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