Association between food assistance program participation and overweight

OBJECTIVE The objective of this study was to investigate the association between food assistance program participation and overweight/obesity according to poverty level. METHODS A cross-sectional analysis of data from 46,217 non-pregnant and non-lactating women in Lima, Peru was conducted; these data were obtained from nationally representative surveys from the years 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2008-2010. The dependent variable was overweight/obesity, and the independent variable was food assistance program participation. Poisson regression was used to stratify the data by family socioeconomic level, area of residence (Lima versus the rest of the country; urban versus rural), and survey year (2003-2006 versus 2008-2010). The models were adjusted for age, education level, urbanization, and survey year. RESULTS Food assistance program participation was associated with an increased risk of overweight/obesity in women living in homes without poverty indicators [prevalence ratio (PR) = 1.29; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06;1.57]. When stratified by area of residence, similar associations were observed for women living in Lima and urban areas; no associations were found between food assistance program participation and overweight/obesity among women living outside of Lima or in rural areas, regardless of the poverty status. CONCLUSIONS Food assistance program participation was associated with overweight/obesity in non-poor women. Additional studies are required in countries facing both aspects of malnutrition.