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Health Care Reform
Dec 10/24, 2012

Agricultural Subsidies: Are They a Contributing Factor to the American Obesity Epidemic?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Center for Clinical Epidemiology, Jewish General Hospital, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Ms Grandi); and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, England (Ms Franck).

Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(22):1754-1755. doi:10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.40

In the past 3 decades, the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled in the United States.1 This increase has been largely attributed to shifting trends in the American diet, including the increased consumption of added fats and sugars and decreases in physical activity.2 Previous public health interventions targeting individual-level factors have had marginal, if not negligible, effects on the rising prevalence of obesity.3 In the past decade, attention has been brought to the role of US agricultural policies in the obesity epidemic. In particular, it has been suggested that the US Farm Bill (primarily the farm subsidies program) may have directly contributed to the increasing prevalence of obesity by increasing availability of energy-dense foods at relatively low cost. However, the extent to which the US Farm Bill has had an impact on the obesity epidemic is unclear.