As a result of chronic unemployment, African-Americans experience a higher rate of poor and unhealthy eating habits, according to a recently released study from a national polling agency.

The Gallup poll reported that nearly 5 million Americans eat less healthfully than they did a year ago, and African-Americans have been the hardest hit.

The national unemployment rate in August was 9.1 percent; for African-Americans, the rate was more than double that, at about 20 percent.

The reason for bad eating habits is that due to the poor economy, families are forced to reduce spending, with the family budget for food the first thing to be eliminated.

“Foods with high calories are cheaper,” said Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Obesity Research at Seattle University in Washington. “A person with a tiny income is going to be more concerned with feeling full than how many antioxidants that they get.”

Drewnowski said people living on minimal or no incomes are more concerned about getting higher “calories per dollar” instead of “nutrients per dollar.”

Traditionally, foods with fewer calories and more healthy ingredients are more expensive. For example, a 16-ounce package of prepared garden salad costs between $2.50 and $3 at some metro area supermarkets. However, a high calorie, high fat, cholesterol-saturated cheeseburger or fries can be purchased for less than $2 at many fast-food restaurants. Despite the health risks, those savings can be an attractive lure to the unemployed.

However, the money saved today will be spent on medical bills tomorrow, as physicians contend that a regular diet of fast food can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.

To read the complete Gallup study on the link between unemployment and poor eating habits, visit