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As Congress considers cuts to the Food Stamp program, new research suggests that running out of food at the end of the month is a real health risk for those with diabetes, and is linked to an increased risk of being hospitalized for hypoglycemia.
The study, which appeared in the journal Health Affairs, said that low-income diabetes patients are 27 percent more likely to find themselves hospitalized for a hypoglycemia incident at the end of the month, when food budgets are likely to be depleted, than at the beginning of the month.
Hypoglycemia occurs when people with diabetes experience dangerously low blood sugar, which most commonly is associated with taking diabetes medications incorrectly, such as without food. It can also occur after long periods without food, and has the potential to be fatal.
Although researchers could not definitively say the increased cases of hypoglycemia were linked to running out of food, high-income diabetes patients did not show a larger risk of experiencing dangerously low blood sugar at month's end, which allowed them to make the association.
Researchers embarked on the study in response to proposed food stamp cuts in hopes of establishing a link between food budgets and a negative impact on health, said Dr. Hilary Seligman, assistant professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.
Previous research has shown that for those in lower income brackets, a higher priority is placed on paying rent and utility payments than in buying food, so by the end of the month, funds are often depleted.
"People who work minimum wage jobs or live on benefits often have this typical pay cycle pattern," Seligman told the New York Times. "We wanted to examine whether there were adverse health consequences to running out of money at the end of the month."
The study examined the admissions records of 100,000 people below poverty levels, and found that 270 of them had a diagnosis of hypoglycemia, compared to 200 per 100,000 for those in high income brackets. The admissions were 27 percent more likely to occur at the end of the month rather than the beginning, researchers said.
In 2010, a Canadian study found that not only are poor people more likely to develop diabetes, they are also more likely to suffer complications from the disease.
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