Updated study shows baseline annual diet costs less for women than men

LINTHICUM, MD, April 13 --The cost of providing a nutritious diet remains less expensive for a woman than a man, according to the updated version of a classic diet study that will be published later this year in a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®).

In the updated study, the minimal annual cost to feed a 25-50 year-old man is $651.27, while for a 25-50 year old female the minimal annual cost is $535.27. The data are corrected to 1998 prices and current recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) and food nutritional content.

Stigler's Diet Problem is a classic example of a linear program, a mathematical technique used by operations researchers to determine the optimal way of achieving an objective, subject to restrictions. The diet problem, although not effective for producing diets for humans to be followed literally, has proven of great value in determining feed mixes for chickens and cattle, as well as other ingredient mix products such as fertilizers.

"The concept of a minimum cost diet for humans serves as a base line for government funding and school lunch planning," explains Operations Researcher Saul I. Gass of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland College Park.

Diet problems that trace their development to the original study include the Thrifty Food Plan, a subsistence dietary approach developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service to determine the number of food stamps issued to Food Stamp Program recipients; and the rules imposed by the USDA on school dieticians and related diet/menu software to ensure that public-school students receive nutritious school lunches.

Operations Research Milestone

The economist George Stigler posed and solved what became know as Stigler's Diet Problem in 1945. The solution of this problem helped to show that linear programming, a dazzling but untested theory developed in

Contact: Barry List
Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences

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