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Association of Food Insecurity and Food Addiction Symptoms: A Secondary Analysis of Two Samples of Low-Income Female Adults

      Abstract

      Background

      Household food insecurity persists in the United States and has important implications for health and well-being. Food insecurity in female-identified caregivers is particularly concerning, given its association with their mental health and adverse health outcomes for their children. Food insecurity is associated with disordered eating but, to our knowledge, no prior studies have examined an association between food insecurity and food addiction.

      Objective

      Our aim was to examine whether food insecurity is associated with higher food addiction symptom endorsement in low-income female adults.

      Design

      Secondary analysis of baseline data from a quasi-experimental study of a mindfulness-based intervention on gestational weight gain among low-income pregnant individuals and an observational study of low-income families.

      Participants/setting

      Participants in study 1 (n = 208) were English-speaking, low-income pregnant individuals with overweight or obesity, recruited in California from 2011 to 2013. Participants in study 2 (n = 181) were English-speaking, low-income female caregivers for children aged 8 through 10 years, recruited in Michigan from 2018 to 2019. Both studies recruited participants from community health clinics, social service agencies, and online advertisements.

      Main outcome measures

      The primary outcome measure was food addiction symptoms, assessed by the Yale Food Addiction Scale.

      Statistical analysis

      Multivariate Poisson regression was used to examine the association between household food insecurity and food addiction symptoms in each sample, adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics.

      Results

      In study 1, pregnant individuals in food-insecure households reported 21% higher food addiction symptoms than pregnant individuals in food-secure households (incidence rate ratio 1.21; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.47; P = .047). In study 2, caregivers in food-insecure households had 56% higher food addiction symptoms than caregivers in food-secure households (incidence rate ratio 1.56; 95% CI 1.01 to 2.40; P = .045).

      Conclusions

      These findings provide preliminary support for a relationship between household food insecurity and food addiction. Future research should examine potential mechanisms and whether interventions to reduce food insecurity lower risk of food addiction.

      Keywords

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      Biography

      L. Parnarouskis is a doctoral candidate, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

      Biography

      A. N. Gearhardt is an associate professor, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

      Biography

      A. E. Mason is an associate professor, Department of Psychiatry, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.

      Biography

      N. E. Adler is director, Center for Health and Community, Lisa and John Pritzer Professor of Medical Psychology, Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, and vice chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco.

      Biography

      B. A. Laraia is a professor, Public Health Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.

      Biography

      E. S. Epel is a professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California-San Franscisco Weill Institute for Neurosciences, School of Medicine, San Francisco.

      Biography

      C. W. Leung is John G. Searle Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor.

      Linked Article

      • Measures Used with Populations with Food Insecurity: A Call for Increased Psychometric Validation
        Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and DieteticsVol. 122Issue 10
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          How do researchers know what they are measuring when they use questionnaires? Confidence in the ability of measures to appropriately capture intended constructs for a particular population is essential to scientific rigor and a challenge for the social sciences. Parnarouskis and colleagues1 bring up a critical point in their Discussion about the limitations of using a measure for which the validation samples may not have adequately represented specific groups of interest. We appreciate the opportunity to continue this important conversation because it is a topic that is of high importance to the study of food insecurity and eating-related behaviors.
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