Study Results Show Link Between Food Insecurity and Diabetes Later in Life

Investigators analyzed data from nearly 4000 individuals from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health.

Young adults who were at risk of food insecurity had an increased incidence of diabetes 10 years later, according to the results of a study from Washington State University.

Although previous research has associated food insecurity with a range of health issues, including diabetes, hypertension, and obesity this study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, showed a connection over time, which could indicate a causal relationship.

Investigators analyzed data from nearly 4000 individuals from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. They found that individuals aged 24 to 32 years who said that they had been worried about food running out in the past year showed a greater incidence of diabetes than those who did not report food insecurity risk.

Investigators used blood glucose tests or self-reports to determine the incidence of diabetes.

“When we look at the data 10 years later, we do see this separation in prevalence of diabetes, those that experienced risk of food insecurity at young adulthood are more likely to have diabetes in middle adulthood,” Cassandra Nguyen, an assistant professor with the Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH) at WSU, said in a statement.

Although the investigators could not identify the exact reason for this connection, previous research has shown that food-insecure households often have diets with lower nutritional values.

Following dietary guidelines tend to cost more money, which makes it difficult for those who lack money or reliable transportation, Nguyen said.

Additionally, individuals who experience food insecurity can also get caught in a negative reinforcing cycle, which is when food insecurity is associated with a diet that contributes to disease risk and creates additional health care expenses, she said.

The study results did not indicate differences among ethnicities or races, but they also said that a limitation of the study was the number of minorities in the sample, which could be too low to show a pattern, according to investigators.

The investigators plan to evaluate food insecurity risk and health issues within American Indian and Alaska Native and American Indian populations, which they said are often left out of annual reports on food insecurity.

Nguyen also recently led a review of 30 studies that found that food insecurity estimates in native populations are widely varied. However, the lowest estimate of food insecurity in native populations exceeds the prevalence among non-Hispanic white adults.

“It's really important to ensure that individuals who are experiencing food insecurity are able to be identified and that they have resources made available to them to be able to break the cycle,” Nguyen said.

Intervention, such as the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program have proven effective in improving diet and health, Nguyen said.

The study was conducted by an interdisciplinary team affiliated with IREACH. The research was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease.

Reference

Food insecurity risk related to diabetes later in life. EurekAlert. News release. May 9, 2022. Accessed May 11, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/951957