The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Food Insecurity, Dietary Quality, and Obesity Among U.S. Adults

Am J Public Health. 2015 Jul;105(7):1453-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302580. Epub 2015 May 14.


Objectives: We examined whether Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation changes associations between food insecurity, dietary quality, and weight among US adults.

Methods: We analyzed adult dietary intake data (n = 8333) from the 2003 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Bivariate and multivariable methods assessed associations of SNAP participation and 4 levels of food security with diet and weight. Measures of dietary quality were the Healthy Eating Index 2010, total caloric intake, empty calories, and solid fat; weight measures were body mass index (BMI), overweight, and obesity.

Results: SNAP participants with marginal food security had lower BMI (1.83 kg/m2; P < .01) and lower probability of obesity (9 percentage points; P < .05). SNAP participants with marginal (3.46 points; P < .01), low (1.98 points; P < .05), and very low (3.84 points; P < .01) food security had better diets, as illustrated by the Healthy Eating Index. Associations between SNAP participation and improved diet and weight were stronger among Whites than Blacks and Hispanics.

Conclusions: Our research highlights the role of SNAP in helping individuals who are at risk for food insecurity to obtain a healthier diet and better weight status.

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Food Assistance / standards*
  • Food Supply
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology