Banning use of food stamps to buy soda could reduce obesity and diabetes rates, study finds

A Stanford University study suggests that banning food-stamp users from buying soda could slash diabetes rates and reduce the risk for obesity.

The study used a simulation that included data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to test the ban's hypothesized effect. Comparing a person's diet with the cost of food, the research revealed how an individual's diet might change if food stamps no longer paid for sugar-sweetened beverages. The simulation also accounted for the fact that some people would still buy soda with cash or swap soda for other sugary drinks like fruit juice.

The team also simulated what would happen if food stamp participants were given a 30-cent reward for each dollar they spent on fruits and vegetables.

Fruit and vegetable intake up, obesity and diabetes rates down

The findings were compelling: Based on the simulation, researchers suggest the number of people who meet the daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake would double, 1.12 percent fewer adults and 0.41 percent fewer children would become obese, and diagnoses of adults with type 2 diabetes would decrease by 2.3 percent.

“This is a rigorous and well-conducted study,” David Stuckler, PhD, a senior research leader in sociology at Oxford University, told Stanford in an email. “It reminds us of the critical importance of addressing the root financial causes of rising obesity and diabetes in the United States.”

Results of the study also matched outcomes of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Incentives pilot study, which was carried out in one Massachusetts county.

Changes could help large, vulnerable population

While the results are encouraging, opposition from companies in the food industry, who receive subsidies, would likely cause resistance in executing any immediate changes to the food stamp program.

With 46 million Americans receiving food stamp benefits, however, study author Dr. Sanjay Basu says the benefits of implementing these types of changes could impact a large population vulnerable to diabetes and obesity.

“It’s very rare that we can reach that many people with one policy change and just one program,” he said.

The study is published in the journal Health Affairs.

Source: Stanford

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