Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
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Subsidizing chronic disease?

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Our agricultural policies may be bad for our health. A new study has found that people who eat a lot of foods derived from the crops that are subsidized by the government, such as wheat, corn, sorghum, and soybeans, have a higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. That’s because the lion’s share of these subsidized commodities are converted into foods currently on the USDA’s naughty list—high-fat meat and dairy products, refined grains, high-calorie juices and soft drinks, and processed and packaged foods.

“We need better alignment of agricultural and nutritional policies,” says K.M. Venkat Narayan, Ruth and O.C. Hubert Professor of Global Health and Epidemiology. “One potential policy lever may be to shift agricultural subsidies toward the production of healthier crops such as fruits and vegetables.”

Eating fewer subsidized foods alone will not eradicate obesity, but people who eat more fruits and vegetables can reduce their risk. “Our hope is that this study shines a light on the disconnect between federal nutritional recommendations and food commodity subsidies and potentially leads to future collaborative research and action,” says Narayan.

The full paper, first-authored by Karen Siegel as part of her doctoral work at Emory, is available in the July 5 online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.

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