Food Innovation Center

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Research by Chris Taylor Indicates Food Insecurity Increases Likelihood of Metabolic Diseases in Children

Chris TaylorFIC member Dr. Christopher Taylor, PhD, associate professor of medical dietetics and family medicine at The Ohio State University, along with lead research Dr. David Holben, PhD, professor and department chair of nutrition and hospitality management at the University of Mississippi, recently published a new study in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association called "Food Insecurity and Its Association With Central Obesity and Other Markers of Metabolic Syndrome Among Persons Aged 12 to 18 Years in the United States."

The research indicates that household food insecurity dramatically increases the likelihood of metabolic diseases in children, with many showing chronic disease markers before they graduate from high school. 

Food insecurity, defined as lacking access to food for an active, healthy life, is a preventable health threat. Yet, lack of basic access to food affects 14.3 percent of all U.S. households and 19.5 percent of households with children.

To study the potential effects of food insecurity, Dr. Holben and colleagues from the University of Mississippi and Ohio State University administered the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey to a cross-sectional sample of adolescents ages 12 to 18. More than 7,500 participants were interviewed in their homes and given physical examinations between 1999 and 2006.

The data revealed that participants from households with marginally low, low and very low food security were 33 to 44 percent more likely than their high food secure counterparts to be overweight.

Children with very low to marginal food security were also 1.5 times more likely to meet the criteria for central obesity, defined as having excessive fat around the stomach and abdomen. Central obesity is linked to heart disease and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

“These families often have to make the difficult decision of choosing to buy healthy food or buying food they can afford,” said co-author Christopher Taylor, PhD, associate professor of medical dietetics and family medicine at Ohio State University. “As physicians, we can help our patients identify resources such as local food banks or the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to help bridge that gap.” Read more.

View the study here