Household Food Insecurity and Obesity, Chronic Disease, and Chronic Disease Risk Factors

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Nutrition and Food Systems


Context. Studies examining the association between food insecurity and obesity in adults have produced conflicting results, and information is limited on the relationship between food insecurity and adult chronic health conditions, particularly in a high-risk population.

Objective. To examine the association between household food insecurity and self-reported weight status and chronic disease in the Lower Mississippi Delta.

Design. A two-stage stratified cluster sample representative of the population in 36 counties in the Lower Delta. Data were collected in a cross-sectional telephone survey using list assisted random digit dialing telephone methodology.

Setting and Participants. A randomly selected sample of 1,457 adults from a free-living population.

Main Outcome Measures. US Food Security Survey Module, self-reported height and weight status (obesity = body mass index > 30 kg/m2), and self-reported hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and a marker for metabolic syndrome.

Results. In food-insecure adults, 42.3% were obese, a significantly higher rate than food secure adults (33.2%). After controlling for demographic variables, food insecurity was not independently associated with obesity. Income and the interaction between race and gender were significant predictors of obesity. Food insecure adults were significantly more likely to report hypertension (45.1% vs. 29.5%) diabetes (15.0% vs. 9.3%), heart disease (13.5% vs. 6.8%) and metabolic syndrome (10.1% vs. 4.4%). After controlling for demographic variables, food insecurity was associated with high cholesterol (Odds Ratio [OR] 1.65; 95% Confidence Interval [CI], 1.0 to 2.7), heart disease (OR 2.7; 95% CI, 1.5 to 4.8), and metabolic syndrome (OR 2.8; 95% CI, 1.4 to 5.5).

Conclusions. The relationship between food insecurity and obesity in a high-risk population, may be due to income and demographic variables. Individuals in a rural high-risk population with high cholesterol, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome have a high likelihood of being food-insecure. Nutritional interventions targeting high-risk populations should address food insecurity.

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Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition





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