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Study: Food Insecurity Tied To Obesity

Study: Food Insecurity Tied To ObesityA new study by researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University shows a link between food insecurity and weight gain in women.

Boston [06.12.06] There’s new evidence that links food insecurity with obesity in women. The research, led by Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy assistant professor Parke E. Wilde suggests that women in families that sometimes face food shortages “are more likely than other women to be obese or gain weight over time,” Reuters Health reported. The findings – published in the May issue of the Journal of Nutrition – were also reported around the world by news organizations, including The Boston Globe and United Press International.

Wilde, who worked with Jerusha Peterman, a student in the Food Policy and Applied Nutrition Program at the Friedman School, “found that compared with women who reported no problems providing balanced meals, those who reported some level of hardship were 58 percent to 76 percent more likely to be obese,” according to Reuters Health. “The women reporting hardships were also more likely to gain at least 10 pounds over the next year; about one third did so, versus 20 percent of women in households with no difficulty putting food on the table.”

According to Reuters Health, researchers “speculate that the link partially explains why obesity is more prevalent among lower-income Americans.”

One theory behind the phenomenon is that women living in low-income households tend to overeat during periods when food is not scarce, such when food stamps are issued, Reuters Health explained. High-calorie, processed foods are also less expensive to buy than fresh fruits and vegetables.

Wilde suggested that it might be worthwhile to investigate the current Food Stamp Program to determine whether or not allocating the program’s benefits twice per month might help to curb food insecurity.

Another possible solution, he told Reuters Health, is for “nutrition education programs, such as the federal Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program, [to] focus more on teaching low-income families how to manage their resources and stabilize their food buying and consumption.”

While the Tufts study showed a clear link between food insecurity and weight gain in women, it did not find the same connection with men.

“There was some evidence of a link between food insecurity and heavier weight among men, but the findings weren't statistically significant,” Reuters Health reported. Wilde told the news organization that there was no clear reason for the gender difference.


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