Researcher David Holben found that subjects from households with greater levels of what medical, nutrition and dietetic professionals call "food insecurity" had a greater body mass index (BMI) than those with smaller levels of food insecurity (an average BMI of 30.3 vs. average BMI of 29). Those from food insecure households also were more likely to have diabetes (37.9 percent) and to be overweight (48.1 percent) than subjects from food secure households (25.8 percent and 35.1 percent, respectively). The study was published in the July 2006 issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control.
A total of 2,580 people participated in the Ohio University project, with 72.8 percent from food secure households and 27.2 percent from food insecure households that may or may not be experiencing hunger. That's higher than the national average: In 1999, the year the Ohio University study was conducted, 10.1 percent of U.S. households were food insecure.
Food insecurity is associated health problems such as stress, obesity, diabetes and heart disease, as well as with poor management of chronic disease, said Holben, who recently wrote a major position paper about the problem for the American Dietetic Association.
The survey included residents of Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Perry, Pike and Vinton counties in Ohio. Researchers asked participants about food access of their households, as well as health care access and use. Those who agreed to an additional health exam were checked for weight, blood pressure, hemoglobin levels, total cholesterol and blood glucose control, said Holben, associate professor of human and consumer sciences and the director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics in Ohio University's College of Health and Human Services.