Using food stamps to purchase your favorite sodas may soon become a thing of the past. In a country where over half of adults over 20 are overweight or obese, and childhood obesity is on the rise, medical groups and nutrition experts are pressing for change. Their idea is to push the food stamp program, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to ban sugary drinks in order to reduce obesity. For every dollar spent on fruits and vegetables, food stamp participants would receive a 30-cent incentive.

The study, led by Dr. Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, used computerized simulations to evaluate the ban’s effect. “Restricting or removing the subsidy that SNAP provides for sugar-sweetened beverages would be very likely to reduce type 2 diabetes and obesity among low-income Americans,” said Basu, the lead author of the study, in a press release.

For the study, researchers simulated giving a 30-cent reward to food stamp users for every dollar they spent on fruits and vegetables. They created the simulation by using dietary information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey. Each person’s diet was compared to the cost of food in their local area. They also assumed that some people would continue to buy sweetened beverages with their own money and others would substitute sodas for fruit juice. 

The results showed that 1.12 percent fewer adults and 0.41 percent fewer children would become obese and the diagnosis of adults with type 2 diabetes would decline by 2.3 percent. This new change would also double the number of adults eating the recommended dose of vegetables and fruits.

“This is a rigorous and well-conducted study,” said Dr. David Stuckler, a senior research leader in sociology at Oxford University, in the release. “It reminds us of the critical importance of addressing the root financial causes of rising obesity and diabetes in the United States.”

Researchers are adamant about these changes because sugary drinks are responsible for the seriously spiking sugar levels that cause diabetes. “Sweetened beverages are off the charts in terms of the diabetes risk they pose, Basu said.  Obesity is a leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes makes up about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed diabetes cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the disease can put you at risk for heart attack, stroke, amputations, blindness, kidney disease, neurologic disease, and leg ulcers.  Nutrition and physical activity can help prevent and control diabetes. It all starts with one apple a day.

Forty-six million people are currently using the SNAP program. Researchers hope this new plan is implemented to work toward a healthier America. It will also make it easier for lower-income families to access nutritious food.

Source: Basu S, Seligman H, Gardner C, Bhattacharya J. Ending SNAP Subsidies For Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Could Reduce Obesity And Type 2 Diabetes. Health Affairs. 2014.