Women who are food insecure may be at high risk for addiction to highly processed foods

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A new study in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics It found that women with food insecurity more frequently reported symptoms of food addiction, such as compulsive eating of certain types of food, and unsuccessful attempts to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Further study of the mechanisms of addiction may be a valuable approach to understanding the relationship between food insecurity and excessive consumption of processed foods.

Food-insecure families often have limited access to nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, and greater access to foods that are less expensive, processed and high in refined carbohydrates and fats. Research has found that highly processed foods can activate neural reward responses.

“A new line of research indicates that highly processed foods can lead to addictive processes that can lead to a compulsive pattern of overeating, with significant physical and mental health consequences. We know that food-insecure individuals are more likely to live In an environment dominated by these highly processed foods and being targeted more by Food IndustryExplains first author Lindsey Barnarowskis, MA, PhD candidate, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

“We hypothesized that food-insecure individuals may be more likely to be addicted to processed foods, but no one has investigated this before.”

The study included a secondary analysis of data collected in two previous studies. The Maternal Obesity, Metabolic and Stress Study (MAMAS), conducted between August 2011 and June 2013, examined an eight-week mindfulness-based intervention on gestational weight gain in low-income pregnant women in California. Participants were individuals with a BMI in the overweight or obese range, and whose household income was 500% lower than the US Federal Poverty Guidelines.

The Family Food Study (FFS), conducted between September 2018 and December 2019 low income families in Michigan to assess associations between food insecurity and increased infant weight and maternal weight gain. Participants were identified adult caregivers with children aged 8-10 years and Family income Less than 200% of the federal poverty guidelines in the United States.

Food security was measured using the US Home Food Security Model. It assesses the frequency of experiences of food insecurity, such as worrying about whether food will run out before more money arrives to buy more, reduce portion sizes, or skip meals because there is not enough money to buy food.

Food addiction was measured with the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS), an instrument that uses criteria for substance use disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which are adapted to the context of highly processed foods. The MAMAS study used the original YFAS model based on the DSM-IV; The FFS study used a modified version based on the DSM-5. Using different versions of YFAS as an outcome measure means that these results cannot necessarily be usefully compared across samples.







Lead author Lindsey Parnarouskis, MS, reviews a secondary analysis of data collected in two previous studies: maternal obesity, metabolism and stress (MAMAS) and the Family Food Study (FFS). This new study found that women with food insecurity and greater access to heavily processed foods frequently report symptoms of food addiction, such as compulsive eating of certain types of food, and failed attempts to reduce withdrawal symptoms. attributed to him: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

The researchers did not find significant demographic differences between participants in food-secure and food-insecure households. Participants in food insecure households in both samples reported significantly more food addiction symptoms compared to participants in food insecure households.

In MAMAS, pregnant individuals in food insecure families had 21% more food addiction symptoms than individuals from food insecure families. In FFS, caregivers in food-insecure households had 56% more symptoms of food addiction than caregivers in food-secure households.

“One of the study’s main strengths is that we observed consistent associations across two distinct samples of low-income adult females with a high prevalence of food insecurity,” notes principal investigator Cindy W. Leung, ScD, MPH, assistant professor of public health nutrition, Harvard College. TH Chan Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

“Despite the data collected in different geographic regions, at different time periods, and at different stages of parenting or caregiving, the similarity between the associations suggests that this association between food insecurity and food addiction is worrisome and deserves further ongoing research.”

Ms Parnarowskis points out that as this is the first study to report this association, further research is needed to replicate these initial findings and test in other samples to generalize to the broader population, particularly because YFAS has not been psychologically validated in either Food insecure people or pregnant individuals. It is possible that the endorsement of food addiction symptoms in food insecure individuals reflects an increased desire for pleasure to eat any available foods, not just the highly processed foods that are usually implicated in food addiction.

In an accompanying editorial, lead author Kara A. Christensen, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV, USA, and co-authors note the need for more qualitative and quantitative testing of measures that assess eating behaviors in order to validate Use in food insecure populations. Furthermore, they urge researchers to work together to perform psychometric validations of measures of eating behavior that include the common overlapping identities of food insecure people.

Dr. Christensen and co-authors emphasize that, “Given the reasons why measures of eating behavior such as the YFAS may be conceptualized differently in food-insecure people, one must be careful in interpreting results using these measures to avoid exaggeration of pathological behaviors or poor categorized.”

“Therefore, to enhance understanding of maladaptive eating behaviors in these populations and to enhance confidence in outcomes, further psychological testing of measures is required in food-insecure populations. These studies will enhance the field’s ability to understand phenomena related to Food insecurity and draw conclusions that can positively affect public health, nutrition and dietetics, public policy and mental health treatment.

“If low-income families have unequal access to food with the potential for addiction, then this is an important social justice issue, on par with lack of access to clean water or adequate housing, that must be addressed through systemic policies and environmental changes,” Dr. Leung concludes. “We need more research on the mechanisms driving this association to inform policies to ensure that people have equitable access to nutritious food.”


10.8 percent of children live in food-insecure families


more information:
Lindsey Parnarouskis et al, Association of food insecurity and symptoms of food addiction: a secondary analysis of two samples of low-income adult females, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.jand.2022.04.015

Kara A. Christensen et al, Measures used with food insecure populations: a call for increased psychological validation, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.jand.2022.05.017

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