Food Insecurity Linked to Late-Onset Diabetes

Researchers also note that people experiencing food insecurity can get caught in a negative reinforcing cycle.

Seattle, Washington—A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that young adults who struggled with food insecurity had a higher rate of diabetes later in life. Researchers at the University of Washington studied 4,000 volunteers (as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health). The participants were between the ages of 24 to 32. Testing was done through blood glucose tests and self-reporting tools.

The Impact of Food Insecurity

Results revealed that those who worried about hunger in the prior year had greater incidence of diabetes. “People experiencing food insecurity can also get caught in a negative reinforcing cycle,” said CJ Nikolaus, Lead Study Author and Assistant Professor with WSU’s Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health or IREACH. “When food insecurity is associated with a diet that contributes to disease risk, [it] creates additional health care expenses, stressing a household’s economic resources and deepening food insecurity. 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.”

Nikolaus continued, “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. Eating according to the dietary guidelines tends to cost more money. It may cost more time. It’s not always accessible to households that have limitations such as transportation to sources of lower cost, nutritionally dense food.”

However, there was one positive finding: Government Intervention programs, like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), were efficient in turning around health outcomes.

Food Insecurity on the Rise in U.S.

As WholeFoods Magazine has previously reported, food insecurity—defined by the USDA as a “lack of available financial resources for food for all members of the home”—is on the rise. Six in 10 Americans have experienced food insecurity at some point in their lives, according to research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Herbalife Nutrition and Feed the Children. Of those impacted, 73% experienced food insecurity for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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