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Obesity Tied to Consumption of U.S. Subsidy Crops

Majority of calories consumed came from among seven subsidized food products

WEDNESDAY, July 6, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Americans get more than half of their daily calories from seven farm foods that are subsidized by the U.S. government, but a new study suggests those subsidies may be contributing to the obesity epidemic. The findings were published online July 5 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers focused on seven leading commodities covered in the 1973 U.S. Farm Bill. Under that law, producers receive direct financial support from the federal government to grow or raise farm products that include corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, dairy, and livestock.

Karen R. Siegel, Ph.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed food information collected between 2001 and 2006 by the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants (n=10,308) offered researchers a breakdown of their food intake in the 24 hours before being polled. The team created individual-level subsidy scores that estimated consumption of subsidized food commodities as a percentage of total caloric intake.

The majority (56.2 percent) of calories consumed came from among the seven subsidized food products. The investigators found that adults in the highest quartile of the subsidy score (versus the lowest) were 37 percent more likely to be obese, 41 percent more likely to have a ratio of waist circumference to height of at least 0.6, 34 percent more likely to have C-reactive protein levels of at least 0.32 mg/dL, 14 percent more likely to have high levels of non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and 21 percent more likely to have dysglycemia.

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