TUESDAY, June 19, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have less improvement in American Heart Association (AHA) diet scores than other U.S. adults, according to a study published online June 15 in JAMA Network Open.

Fang Fang Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., from Tufts University in Boston, and colleagues examined a nationally representative sample of 38,696 adults aged 20 years or older from eight cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants included 6,162 SNAP participants, 6,692 income-eligible non-participants, and 25,842 higher-income individuals.

The researchers found that there was less improvement in AHA diet scores among SNAP participants versus both income-eligible non-participants and higher-income individuals from 2003-2004 to 2013-2014 (change in mean score, 0.57 versus 2.56 and 3.84, respectively). For most foods and nutrients, disparities persisted, and they worsened for processed meats, added sugars, and nuts and seeds. Compared with income-eligible non-participants and higher-income individuals, the proportion of SNAP participants with poor diet scores was higher in 2013 to 2014 (53.5 versus 38 and 28.7 percent, respectively); a lower proportion of SNAP participants had intermediate diet scores (45.3 versus 59.8 and 68.7 percent, respectively). In all three groups, the proportion of participants with ideal diet scores was low and not significantly different (1.3 versus 2.2 and 2.6 percent, respectively).

“Despite improvement in some dietary components, SNAP participants still do not meet the AHA goals for a healthful diet,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to agriculture and pharmaceutical companies, and another reported being part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP.

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