Ending SNAP Subsidies for Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Could Reduce Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

To reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes rates, lawmakers have proposed modifying Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to encourage healthier food choices.

The researchers examined the impact of two proposed policies: a ban on using SNAP dollars to buy sugar-sweetened beverages; and a subsidy in which for every SNAP dollar spent on fruit and vegetables, 30 cents is credited back to participants’ SNAP benefit cards. They used nationally representative data and models describing obesity, type 2 diabetes, and determinants of food consumption among a sample of over 19,000 SNAP participants. They found that a ban on SNAP purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages would be expected to significantly reduce obesity prevalence and type 2 diabetes incidence, particularly among adults ages 18–65 and some racial and ethnic minorities.

The subsidy policy would not be expected to have a significant effect on obesity and type 2 diabetes, given available data. Such a subsidy could, however, more than double the proportion of SNAP participants who meet federal vegetable and fruit consumption guidelines.