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Study: Food insecurity associated with cardiometabolic risks in Hispanic/Latino youths

March 16, 2022

A new study of Hispanic and Latino youths showed that those facing severe food insecurity were more likely to experience greater health risks, including cardiometabolic complications, than their peers who had adequate access to food.

Previous studies have shown that food insecurity affects about 14% of households with youths, a disproportionate number of whom are Hispanic/Latino.

While food insecurity in adults has been associated with cardiometabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension and hyperlipidemia, little is known about the role of food insecurity on youths’ physical health.

Researchers, therefore, sought to determine whether food insecurity is associated with metabolic syndrome and other cardiometabolic markers, including waist circumference, fasting plasma glucose (FG), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), triglycerides (TGs), and systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

They analyzed data from 1,325 Hispanic/Latino youths ages 8-16 years participating in the Hispanic Community Children’s Health Study/Study of Latino Youth, which began with a baseline clinic visit between 2012 and 2014. Study participants were recruited from the Bronx, N.Y., Chicago, Miami and San Diego.

Household and child food insecurity were assessed using the U.S. Department of Agriculture 18-item Household Food Security Survey Module.

Researchers reported their findings in “Food Insecurity and Cardiometabolic Markers: Results from the Study of Latino Youth,” (Maldonado LE, et al. Pediatrics. March 16, 2022).

Results showed youths in the lowest household and child food security categories had significantly lower HDL-C than those with high food security. Low/very low child food security was associated with greater FG, TGs and metabolic syndrome expected log counts than high child food security.

In addition, participants who scored in the lowest household and child food security categories had the highest median levels of waist circumference and TGs, and the lowest median levels of HDL-C. The proportions of youths meeting each of the metabolic syndrome criteria also tended to be highest among individuals in the lowest categories of food security.

The authors concluded that nutrition policies are needed to improve Hispanic/Latino families’ access to food assistance programs. They also called on health care providers to consider early screening for food insecurity to identify youths who may benefit from additional resources.

“Given the increase in food insecurity that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for Hispanic/Latino immigrant families, these findings may also foreshadow concerning trends for the health and well-being of Hispanic/Latino youth,” they wrote.


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