Study: Food Insecurity Associated With Increased Risk of Dementia


Food insecurity was associated with an increased risk of dementia, poorer memory function, and faster memory decline in older adults.

In older adults in the United States, food insecurity was associated with an increased risk of dementia, poorer memory function, and faster memory decline, according to results of a study published in JAMA Network Open. The study authors stated that future studies are necessary to determine how to address food insecurity and the effects on brain health.1

cropped view of senior man playing with puzzles on table. Dementia. | Image Credit: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS -


In a data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 33.8 million individuals in the United States lived with food insecurity in 2021. Approximately 5.9% of adults aged 18 years and older were living in families who experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days when the survey was conducted in 2021.2

Investigators of the study aimed to determine whether food insecurity could be associated with cognitive outcomes in older adults, including Alzheimer disease and Alzheimer disease-related dementias. The study authors used data from the Health and Retirement study, which included data from non-institutionalized individuals aged 50 years and older and their spouses. Data included demographics, health, labor market, and socioeconomic status, according to the study authors. For information on food security, data from the 2013 Health Care and Nutrition Study was used, including health care access, food purchases, food consumption, and nutrition, according to the study authors.1

The study authors included 7012 individuals with a mean age of 67.7 years, 58.9% women, 16.2% non-Hispanic Black, and 69.2% non-Hispanic White. There was a mean duration of school of 13 years, according to the results. Approximately 18.4% were experiencing food insecurity, with 10.3% experiencing low food security and 8.1% experiencing very low. Compared to those who were food secure, investigators found that those with low and very low food security were younger, more likely to be women and non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic, had fewer years of schooling, were living in poverty, and earned less income.1

They found that individuals who were experiencing low food security had a 1.38 times higher risk of dementia compared with those who were food secure. Additionally, this was true for those experiencing very low food security at a 1.37 higher risk, according to the study results. Investigators found that the point estimates indicated that food insecurity was associated with an increased risk of dementia that was equivalent to approximately 1.3 excess years of cognitive aging, according to the results.1

Low and very low food security was also associated worse memory levels at age 70 years, according to the results. For excess cognitive aging, low food security and low food security was associated with a decreased cognitive level of about 0.7 years and 1 year of excess aging per year, respectively. The study authors also reported that food insecurity was also associated with faster rates of age-related memory decline when compared to those who were food secure, according to the results.1

Investigators said the study had limitations, which included that among the data on who were Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligible, individuals with reduced cognitive function were less likely to participate in SNAP. They also said that the possibility of residual confounding remains.1


  1. Qian H, Khadka A, Martinez SM, et al. Food Insecurity, Memory, and Dementia Among US Adults Aged 50 Years and Older. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(11):e2344186. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.44186
  2. Weeks JD, Mykyta L, Madans JH. Adults living in families experiencing food insecurity in the past 30 days: United States, 2021. NCHS Data Brief, no 465. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2023. doi:
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