New Australian research indicates higher taxes on alcohol and fatty food could be the best way to stop overindulging, says Otago University.

The study, which focused on 150 health interventions, found regulation and taxation were most effective in treating or preventing diseases.

Increasing tax on alcohol resulted in substantial health gains and savings, while alcohol interventions such as licensing controls and patient interventions were far less effective.

The research also indicated making fatty foods more expensive was more effective than focussing on educational campaigns to improve nutrition.

Otago University professor Tony Blakely said the research made a strong case for the New Zealand Government to remove GST from healthy foods.

"A responsible and canny state that alters the provision and price of healthy living -- be that access to cheaper effective medicines or cheaper healthy diets -- is usually the best option for both improving the nation's health, and freeing up health care funding for other uses," he said.

Mr Blakely and his research team planned to build on the Australian work during the next five years and adapt it to New Zealand.

"A particular focus of our work will be to look at how to best spend health dollars to improve Maori health and the health of the poorest New Zealanders, and how to balance the competing priorities of efficiency and equity," he said.

- NZPA