Food insecurity is positively related to overweight in women

Marilyn S. Townsend, Janet Peerson, Bradley Love, Cheryl Achterberg, Suzanne P. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

534 Scopus citations


Although individuals with poor food security might be expected to have reduced food intake, and thus reduced body fat and less likelihood of being overweight, these associations have not been adequately studied. The purpose of the current study was to examine the relationship between food insecurity and overweight as measured by body mass index (BMI) using data from the nationally representative 1994-1996 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII). Overweight was defined as BMI >27.3 kg/m2 for women and 27.8 kg/m2 for men. Food insecurity was related to overweight status for women (n = 4509, P < 0.0001), but not for men (n = 4970, P = 0.44). Excluding the 11 severely insecure women, the prevalence of overweight among women increased as food insecurity increased, from 34% for those who were food secure (n = 3447), to 41% for those who were mildly food insecure (n = 966) and to 52% for those who were moderately food insecure (n = 86). Food insecurity remained a significant predictor of overweight status, after adjustment for potentially confounding demographic and lifestyle variables (P < 0.01). In a logistic regression analysis, mildly insecure women were 30% more likely to be overweight than those who were food secure [odds ratio (OR) 1.3, P = 0.005]. Thus, food insecurity had an unexpected and paradoxical association with overweight status among women with a higher prevalence of overweight among the food insecure, and a resulting potential for increased, incidence of obesity-related chronic diseases. Given that the rates of both overweight and food insecurity are on the rise, this research area warrants further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1738-1745
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001


  • Food insecurity
  • Food insufficiency
  • Food security
  • Humans
  • Obesity
  • Overweight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science


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