If you imagine the homeless as emaciated waifs, think again: In today's America, even the destitute are fat. A new study of Boston's homeless population found that 65.7% were overweight, and half of those—or about 1 in 3 overall—were obese, Wired reports. "This study suggests that obesity may be the new malnutrition of the homeless in the United States," one of the researchers wrote. Just 1.6% of the 5,632 people the study examined were underweight. "I thought we'd see a lot more people who were malnourished," says one co-author.
"People who are homeless are under a lot of stress," one nutritionist explains, and stress boosts cortisol levels, which leads to weight gain. But Wired notes that that same stress isn't having the same effect on the homeless in developing countries. And that means looking at our food system, one in which "you can buy calories very cheaply, but it's hard to buy nutrition cheaply," explains one researcher. This new reality could fuel more cases of obesity-related diabetes, which is a tricky disease for the homeless to battle, as needles (needed for insulin delivery) are barred from many shelters.