August 11, 2009

Food stamps linked to weight gain in women

The use of food stamps is associated with weight gain in women, but U.S. researchers say they don't know exactly why.

The 14-year study, published in Economics and Human Biology, finds the average user of food stamps had a body mass index 1.15 points higher than non-users and the link was almost entirely based on women users, who averaged a 1.24 point higher BMI, or 5.8 pounds, than those not in the program.

Study co-author Jay Zagorsky of Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research said the government statistics showed that the average recipient received $81 in food stamps per month in 2002, the last year examined in this study.

That figure was shocking to me, Zagorsky said in a statement. I think it would be very difficult for a shopper to regularly buy healthy, nutritious food on that budget.

Calorie-dense, high-fat, processed foods tend to be less expensive than more healthy choices such as whole-grains and produce, Zagorsky said.

Zagorsky and Patricia Smith of the University of Michigan-Dearborn used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which has questioned the same group of randomly selected Americans since 1979.