COLUMBUS, Ohio The U.S. Food Stamp Program may help contribute to obesity among its users, according to a new nationwide study that followed participants for 14 years.
Researchers found that the average user of food stamps had a Body Mass Index (BMI) 1.15 points higher than non-users. The link between food stamps and higher weight was almost entirely based on women users, who averaged 1.24 points higher BMI than those not in the program, the study found. For an average American woman, this would mean an increase in weight of 5.8 pounds.
The study also found that people's BMI increased faster when they were on food stamps than when they were not, and increased more the longer they were in the program.
"We can't prove that the Food Stamp Program causes weight gain, but this study suggests a strong linkage," said Jay Zagorsky, co-author of the study and a research scientist at Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research.
"While food stamps may help fight hunger, they may have the unintended consequence of encouraging weight gain among women."
Based on these findings, the Food Stamp Program may have a significant impact on America's obesity rate. In 2008 about 28 million people, or almost 1 in 11 residents, received benefits from the program in a given month.
Zagorsky conducted the study with Patricia Smith of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Their study appears in the current issue of the journal Economics and Human Biology.
The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which has questioned the same group of randomly selected Americans since 1979. The NLSY is conducted by Ohio State's Center for Human Resource Research.
In this study, Zagorsky and Smith compared nearly 4,000 survey participants who used food stamps with almost 6,000 survey participants who did not. They looked at BMI and food stamp use among the participants from 1989 to 2
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Ohio State University