Main content area

Food Insecurity Is Inversely Associated with Diet Quality of Lower-Income Adults

Leung, Cindy W., Epel, Elissa S., Ritchie, Lorrene D., Crawford, Patricia B., Laraia, Barbara A.
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2014 v.114 no.12 pp. 1943-1953.e2
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, adults, beverages, chronic diseases, cross-sectional studies, desserts, energy, food intake, food security, healthy diet, high fat dairy products, legumes, nutritional adequacy, nuts, poverty, processed meat, regression analysis, risk, seeds, snacks, sociodemographic characteristics, sweets, vegetables, United States
Food insecurity acts as a chronic stressor independent of poverty. Food-insecure adults may consume more highly palatable foods as a coping mechanism, leading to poorer diet quality and increased risks of chronic disease over time. Using data from the 1999-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, this study aimed to examine the cross-sectional differences in dietary intake and diet quality by household food security among 8,129 lower-income adults (≤300% of the federal poverty level). Food insecurity was assessed using the 18-item US Household Food Security Survey Module. Dietary intake was assessed from 24-hour recalls and diet quality was measured using the Healthy Eating Index-2005 and the Alternate Healthy Eating Index-2010. Relative mean differences in dietary outcomes by household food security were estimated using linear regression models, adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics. Lower-income food-insecure adults reported higher consumption of some highly palatable foods, including high-fat dairy products (P trend<0.0001) and salty snacks (P trend=0.01) compared with lower-income food-secure adults. Food insecurity was also associated with more sugar-sweetened beverages (P trend=0.003); more red/processed meat (P trend=0.005); more nuts, seeds, and legumes (P trend=0.0006); fewer vegetables (P trend<0.0001); and fewer sweets and bakery desserts (P trend=0.0002). No differences were observed for intakes of total energy and macronutrients. Food insecurity was significantly associated with lower Healthy Eating Index-2005 (P trend<0.0001) and Alternate Healthy Eating Index-2010 scores (P trend<0.0001). Despite no macronutrient differences, food insecurity was associated with characteristics of poor diet quality known to increase chronic disease risk.