Do prisoners have an increase in body weight in jail?


Here’s a thought experiment…

Prisoners have limited say in what they eat during meal time. I have absolutely no knowledge in the management of prisons, but I suspect that the meals are designed by nutritionists or dieticians following the typical SAD diet.

If that’s the case, would it be plausible to see a rise in weight gain and obesity in prisoners during their incarceration? Or even diabetes? Anyone have data on this?

If the trend does show weight gain, wouldn’t this be a way to challenge the SAD diet dogma?

(David) #2

Interesting questions! Sounds like it would be a good environment to study this question. I would bet that the typical prisoner’s diet might actually improve whilst in-prisoned without the free access to fast food. I’m guessing also that the prison population is skewed to younger age which could have an effect with metabolism.


Do they not use the prison environment sometimes for nutrition experiments because of this? Or did I dream that?! Makes sense to get volunteers in a controlled environment and I would be willing to bet prisoners would be keen to get a change of food. And you wouldn’t have to pay them. Win win


Agreed that perhaps access to things like 2 litre bottles of cola may be limited, however the diet I would guess is pretty carby and using inflammation-causing foods, like white bread and vegetable oil based margarine.

All I know is that if I eat a SAD diet, it ruins me.

Also, even though the prisoner population is younger, that doesn’t make comparison analysis impossible. Just compare diabetes or obesity rates in same age groups should be possible to do, as opposed to an entire population.

I wonder if anyone looked at this.


My guess is the data already exists. Someone just needs to retrieve it and look at it.

If they are fed SAD diet, the question becomes what is obesity rates and diabetes rates like in comparison to their same-aged peers in society?

I’m a big data nerd. If someone gets me the data, I am willing to look at it and do the analysis.


Brain not working… I was listening to something on a podcast the other day about a couple of guys from Oxford Uni (UK) who had come up with a database for all tests done everywhere. It may have been Fasting Talk or maybe a Keto Talk. Ugh… memory fail!


I’ve always heard food in prison is really cheap and low quality. But is it worse nutritionally than what the typical American eats? I doubt it. There’s usually a commissary where folks can buy junk food too.


Here’s an example food menu off the internet. And some pictures of food trays. I’d gain weight if I ate this way.


It would be a great place to do a keto vs carbs study although there might be a riot started by the people on non keto!


Yeah, like…hey…WE want BACON, too…:rage::weary:


Maybe we have stumbled on the reason why they don’t do studies in prisons!

(jketoscribe) #12

What a carb fest!!! If you didn’t already have a million reasons to stay out of legal trouble, here’s a new one!

Dying to know what a “kosher beverage” is, since it’s kind of hard for beverages to be “un-kosher” unless it’s dairy served alongside meat. It makes it sound like they serve chicken grease for a beverage, but not pork grease–because that WOULD be unkosher. LOL!


Yeah, the kosher drink puzzled me, too. I didn’t get why that would be. Maybe a dairy and meat thing, I don’t know. When there is an assembly of many people from different cultures, there has to be a way to respect and accommodate all. Certainly can make meal planning a challenge being that there is only one menu choice.

(jketoscribe) #14

The studies have already been done to some degree with an institutionalized population. I’d have to dig to find the study, but there were two dining rooms at the Los Angeles Veterans Home. Residents were assigned to one dining room or the other in a somewhat random fashion. They served only processed oils in one dining room and only natural fats in the other. Predictably, there was more disease and a higher all cause mortality among the vets who had their meals in the dining room that served processed oils.

Any institutional study is going to be limited to USDA guidelines for nutrition. Otherwise those prisoners would be suing for failure to provide them with “nutrition” according to the USDA guidelines–cruel and unusual punishment. Little do they know that what’s really cruel is having to eat according to those guidelines. A nightmare actually. I bet if they fed them real food and natural fats, there would be a lot less aggressive behavior in prisons. You’ve got prisons full of hangry, hypoglycemia crazed people on that diet!!!

(Stephanie Hanson) #15

I’m an ICU nurse in a large teaching hospital. We serve the prisoner population (along with all the other indigent too). Most of our prisoners (by a long shot) come in with severe injuries from being assaulted. Most are not heavy or diabetic. They have access to a gym and workout DVDs and internet and…it appears that in a prison environment, it is very advantageous to get muscles. They also apparently have access to street drugs and they make hooch. So there can be withdrawal issues too.


What about the higher security prisons where people are locked up for decades? Not the transient or short term prisoners…I wouldn’t consider short term prisoners worth looking at because of too many variables at play.

(Jo Lo) #17

I know a bit about this (don’t ask…).
As a keto person you will absolutely starve in jail. White bread baloney sandwiches and a bag of chips. Cookies. Yuck, yuck, and more yuck and nobody will care about your silly diet preferences.

(Jamie Hayes) #18

This looks a lot like the high carb meals served to my centrally obese 60+ female cousin recovering in hospital from a knee replacement.

Whatever happened to “First Do No Harm”?


I believe it was Gary Taubes in “Good Calories, Bad Calories” that reported scientists using prisoners for overfeeding and underfeeding studies and they showed that prisoners gained far fewer than predicted by CI:CO and lost less than expected, except that they always seemed to quickly revert to their baseline weight when the diet went back to normal.

So, if that is correct, it is unlikely that prisoners would see an increase in body weight in jail.

(Michael Iafrato ) #20

One problem is the prisons have stores where the prisoners can buy things like candy, soda, etc. So there is crap in there as well.