Primarily through the use of cross-sectional studies employing self-reported disease, a relationship between food insecurity and greater risk of diet-sensitive chronic diseases has been proposed. However, because of the lack of randomized controlled trials or studies that use continuous or repeated measures it has not been possible to establish causality. Nikolaus and colleagues conducted a study to explore this possible relationship in subjects starting in young adulthood. Their results are published in the August 2022 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.
Data for this work was derived from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health study. Risk of food insecurity in young adulthood (24-32 years), and changes in cardiometabolic health characteristics (body weight, diabetes), and sociodemographic characteristics were determined over a 10 year period in 3992 subjects. Results were determined in all subjects, and were stratified by race and ethnicity.
Food insecurity risk was associated with elevated BMI, obesity, and diabetes. The relationship between risk of food insecurity and body weight and diabetes varied in models stratified by race and ethnicity. Food insecurity risk was not associated with changes in BMI and obesity over time, but was associated with an increased incidence of diabetes in middle adulthood. Because the relations among racial and ethnic groups were unclear, the authors suggested that the relationships among those groups experiencing the highest prevalence of these health conditions should be refined.
In an editorial, Bridge, provides a brief review of the literature on the impacts of food insecurity on health, and some of the factors that contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in food insecurity. Bridge also provides a discussion of why longitudinal studies may overcome the problems with cross-sectional studies. Bridge concludes the editorial by pointing out that more work is needed using longitudinal studies to better elucidate the relationships between food insecurity and health, and this includes the need to test protocols used to determine food insecurity risk.
Cassandra J Nikolaus, Luciana E Hebert, Anna Zamora-Kapoor, Ka`imi Sinclair, Risk of Food Insecurity in Young Adulthood and Longitudinal Changes in Cardiometabolic Health: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 152, Issue 8, August 2022, Pages 1944–1952, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxac055.
Gemma Bridge, Risk of Food Insecurity and Cardiometabolic Health—What Can Be Done?, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 152, Issue 8, August 2022, Pages 1805–1807, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxac109.
Images via canva.com.