A longitudinal study begun when participants were aged 15 years showed that body mass index (BMI) tends to increase more rapidly over time in individuals who experience food insecurity in their early teenaged years than in those who don’t.
Michael G Burke, MD
A longitudinal study begun when participants were aged 15 years showed that body mass index (BMI) tends to increase more rapidly over time in individuals who experience food insecurity in their early teenaged years than in those who don’t. Results were based on data for a 16-year period for 559 adolescents and their families from a primarily rural Midwest population that underwent an economic farm crisis.
Investigators collected participant data on food insecurity and height and weight at 10 time points beginning at age 15 years until age 31 years. Parents reported on household food insecurity, using a 2-item questionnaire, until their adolescent was aged 18 years, after which the adolescent did so along with continuing to report on height and weight, which investigators converted into BMI throughout the study period.
Overall, participants’ BMI increased over time while food insecurity decreased. However, BMI increased more rapidly in those with higher food insecurity when they were aged 15 years. A participant’s initial level of BMI was not a predictor of BMI changes.
Finally, in females, but not in males, changes in food insecurity at different time points strongly predicted changes in BMI over time, indicating that females with a faster increase in food insecurity over time also had a more rapid increase in BMI (Lohman BJ, et al. J Pediatr. 2018;202:115.e1-120.e1).
Thoughts from Dr Burke
I do not understand the mechanism for this association or the finding that girls are more affected than boys, but this study supports others that show health effects of food insecurity. The AAP recommends frequent screening for food insecurity using 2 short questions (Pediatrics. 2015;136:e1431-e1438). For local information on food resources, call 211 in any state in the United States.