Is food insecurity in infancy tied to adiposity?


Food insecurity has been tied to obesity, but little is known about whether this link extends to infants. A new study looks at whether this connection holds.

Previous research has shown a link between children having to worry about food and experiencing food insecurity with obesity. However, the research has often not included infants. A report in Pediatrics looks at the impact of food insecurity on infants in the home and whether it would lead to greater adiposity.1

Investigators recruited infants from the southeastern United States from 2013 to 2017. The infants were continually measured during the study’s run. The households of the infants were labelled as high, marginal, low, or very low, using the US Household Food Security Survey Module. The outcomes that the investigators were looking at included subscapular and triceps skinfold-for-age z score, the sum of subscapular and triceps skinfolds, the ratio of subscapular and triceps skinfolds, body mass index (BMI) z score, and BMI z score ≥1 (at risk for overweight).

Among the sample, 68.6% of the infants were Black and 60.5% of the infants lived in households that had incomes <$20,000. They found that interactions between food security and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program were not significant. When compared to infants who lived in homes with high food security, those who were in very low food security homes had greater odds of being at risk for being overweight (odds ratio 1.55; 95% CI 1.14 to 2.10), higher subscapular skinfold-for-age z scores (0.31 U; 95% CI 0.04 to 0.59), a higher sum of subscapular and triceps skinfolds (0.53 mm; 95% CI 0.002 to 1.07), and higher BMI z scores (0.18 U; 95% CI 0.01 to 0.35). Even when not compared to others, infants who live in low food security homes were found to have a greater risk of being overweight (odds ratio 1.72; 95% CI 1.17 to 2.10).

The researchers concluded the food insecurity could be linked with greater adiposity. However, they also said that larger studies that were run for longer periods should be done to continue examining the potential link.


1. Benjamin-Neelon S, Allen C, Neelon B. Household food security and infant adiposity. Pediatrics. August 28, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1542/peds.2019-3725

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