BMI is one of the most widely used measurements for obesity. The BMI approximates body mass using a mathematical ratio of weight and height.
Obesity has been linked to poverty, so the researchers took into account income and a variety of other factors including race and education -- that may have also affected the weight of survey participants, outside of the use of food stamps.
In addition, the study compared people who lived in the same counties, to take into account that there may be local factors that affect obesity rates.
Even after the various controls, the link between food stamp use and higher weight remained clear, especially for women.
While female food stamp users in general had an average BMI that was 1.24 points higher than those not in the program, white women's BMI was 1.96 points higher, while black women's BMI was 1.1 points higher.
Male food stamp users, both white and black, did not have significantly higher BMIs than those not in the program.
Additional evidence of food stamps' role in weight gain came when the researchers looked at how people's BMI changed before, during and after they were on food stamps.
Results showed BMI increased over all three periods, but increased the most when participants were on food stamps.
The average food stamp users saw their BMI go up 0.4 points per year when they were in the program, compared to 0.07 points per year before and 0.2 points per year after they no longer received the benefits.
In addition, the study found the longer participants received food stamps, the higher their BMI.
"Every way we looked at the data, it was clear that the use of food stamps was associated with weight gain," Zagorsky said.
From the data they have, the researchers can't tell for sure why food stamps seem to lead to unhealthy eating practices, Zagorsky said. But there are clues.
Government statistics showed th
|Contact: Jay Zagorsky|
Ohio State University