Connection between Poverty and Obesity

Lie: All people have the same easy access to healthy foods, regardless of where they live.

Poverty and Obesity: When Healthy Food Isn’t an Option

Even in a country as developed as ours, something as mild as the neighborhood you live in could greatly affect your lifespan. When it comes to obesity and other chronic diseases, some evidence shows that your zip code may matter more than your genetic code.



  • In the 25 years between 1987 and 2010, the number of American’s diagnosed with diabetes almost tripled to 20.9 million.
  • Socioeconomic disparities can radically affect not just health, but life expectancy.
  • If a person is living on Food Stamps, they would have only $4 to buy food per day.
  • Carbohydrates are vastly cheaper that nutrients so people are just getting filled up on these low-income areas.
  • U.S. government is to blame.

Why are Low-Income and Food Insecure People Vulnerable to becoming Overweight and Obese?

Answer: Limited resources and lack of access to healthy, affordable foods.

  • Low-income neighborhoods lack full-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets where people can buy healthy fruits and vegetables. Instead, they are restricted to shopping at small neighborhood convenience stores, where fresh produce and low-fat items are limited, if available at all. 


  • “One of the most comprehensive reviews of U.S. studies examining neighborhood disparities in food access found that neighborhood residents with better access to supermarkets and limited access to convenience stores tend to have healthier diets and reduced risk for obesity.” (Larson et al., 2009).
  • When available, healthy food is often more expensive, whereas grains, added sugars, and fats are inexpensive and readily available in communities that are of low-income.

Relationship between Poverty and Overweight or Obesity

  • Based on a large national study, body mass index (or BMI, an indicator of excess body fat) was higher every year between 1986 and 2002 among adults in the lowest income group and the lowest education group in comparison to those in the highest income and education groups.
  • Between 2003 and 2007, obesity rates increased by up to 10 percent for all U.S. children whose ages ranged from 10- 17-years old. This percentage increased by 23 percent during the same time period for low-income children.



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