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J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Oct;109(10):1790-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.07.007.

Food insecurity is associated with overweight in children younger than 5 years of age.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition, School for Health Sciences, Simmons College, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Both household food insecurity and childhood overweight are serious public health problems that appear to be paradoxically correlated. This study examines the relationship between overweight and household food insecurity with/without hunger in low-income children participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Weight, height, and household food insecurity data were collected on 8,493 children ages 1 month to 5 years and analyzed by sex and age groups using logistic regression to model the odds of being overweight (weight for length or body mass index [calculated as kg/m(2)] for age > or =95th percentile) given household food insecurity status, controlling for race/ethnicity and maternal education. Analyses were stratified by age and sex because interaction terms with household food insecurity were significant (P<0.10). In this sample, prevalence of household food insecurity was 30.7% (8.3% with hunger) and 18.4% were overweight. Among girls younger than 2 years of age, household food insecurity was associated with reduced odds of overweight compared with food-secure households (odds ratio=0.65; 95% confidence interval: 0.47 to 0.88); hunger status did not alter this association. Among 2- to 5-year-old girls, there was no overall significant association between household food insecurity and overweight; however, household food insecurity with hunger was positively associated with overweight compared with those from food-secure households (odds ratio=1.49; 95% confidence interval: 1.06 to 2.10). No association between household food insecurity and overweight was found among boys. These findings suggest an association between household food insecurity and overweight prevalence in this low-income population. However, sex and age appear to modify both the magnitude and direction of the association.

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