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Study finds food insecurity limits intuitive eating in the short and long term

Food insecurity limits intuitive eating in the short and long term
Intuitive Eating Marginal Means by Food Security Status. Note. Means represent the average IE score by food security status and are adjusted for parent education, race/ethnicity, sex, and age; means in emerging adulthood by household food security status are additionally adjusted for adolescent IE. Scores range from 1 to 4 (higher scores reflect greater IE). Statistically significant differences are denoted by brackets. Credit: Public Health Nutrition (2023). DOI: 10.1017/S1368980023000460

A new study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) explores how food insecurity affects the way adolescents and emerging adults practice intuitive eating. Intuitive eating, an approach to eating that focuses on responding to one's hunger and fullness cues—sometimes expressed as "eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full"—is shown to decline among people living in food insecure households, according to the study.

Food insecurity is a leading public challenge in the U.S., affecting more than 10% of U.S. households and disproportionately impacting communities of color. In addition to being associated with chronic disease and worsened , previous research has shown that individuals who experience food insecurity are more likely to engage in disordered eating behaviors, including binge eating.

The study, which appears in Public Health Nutrition, found:

  • In the short-term, who experienced hunger within the last year had lower intuitive eating scores as adolescents (average age of 14) and emerging adults (average age of 22).
  • Long-term, those who lived in food-insecure households in adolescence had lower intuitive eating scores in emerging adulthood.

Researchers relied on data gathered as part of SPH's Project EAT (Eating and Activity over Time), which examines a broad spectrum of weight-related issues among a diverse group of participants from adolescence to adulthood.

"These results suggest that food insecurity has both immediate and potentially long-term impacts on one's approach to intuitive eating," says SPH postdoctoral research fellow Blair Burnette. "If you're not sure where your next meal is coming from, intuitive eating may not be an option. These results lend support to mainstream concerns that intuitive eating currently may not be equally accessible to all people."

The researchers noted that food insecurity rarely happens in isolation. Households experiencing are often facing other social inequities and racial barriers that need to be addressed as part of efforts to remove barriers to intuitive eating.

More information: C Blair Burnette et al, Is intuitive eating a privileged approach? Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between food insecurity and intuitive eating, Public Health Nutrition (2023). DOI: 10.1017/S1368980023000460

Journal information: Public Health Nutrition
Citation: Study finds food insecurity limits intuitive eating in the short and long term (2023, April 20) retrieved 21 June 2024 from
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