People who do not have adequate access to food are more likely to be obese, new study reveals
04/22/2019 // Zoey Sky // Views

When you eat junk food, you not only deprive your body of essential vitamins and nutrients, you also increase your risk of different health problems.

According to a study, there may also be a link between food-related hardships and obesity, which could explain why there are more overweight individuals in certain areas across the U.S. and around the globe.

Junk food, obesity, and premature death

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed that more than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese. Findings also showed that "obesity is the second leading cause of premature death in North America and Europe."

For this study, public policy professors Alexander Testa and Dylan Jackson from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) examined a possible connection between food-related hardships and obesity.

The researchers referenced data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Modified Retail Food Environment Index (mRFEI). The latter is a national sample that measures food deserts.

This study was the first to evaluate the link between experiencing food insecurity, living in a food desert, and obesity.

Food insecurity is defined as the inability to obtain adequate food because of a lack of resources. At least 15.6 million households (12.3 percent) were considered food insecure in 2016.

On the other hand, food deserts are geographic areas where supermarkets or grocery stores are inaccessible to residents.


The UTSA researchers referenced a national sample of adults across the U.S., and analysis revealed that people who were food insecure and those who lived in food deserts were at greater risk of obesity.

Findings implied that Americans who either did not have enough to eat or lived in areas without access to stores that sell affordable and healthy foods had a higher chance of becoming obese. (Related: Improving food nutrition and security, soil health: The U.N. encourages modified farming systems.)

Testa said that the study emphasizes the importance of adequate nutrition for health. Millions of Americans don't have enough food to eat and reside in areas without affordable healthy food options, and the obesity epidemic can only be addressed if those in power make an effort to help these individuals have consistent access to nutritious food.

Taking gender and race into account, the researchers found that women are more likely to be obese due to food insecurity than men. They noted that this could be due to women being more likely to protect their children from food insecurity by sacrificing their own nutritional intake.

The study also revealed that overall, Black and Hispanic households were at a higher risk of food insecurity in the country.

Jackson added that not having access to nutritious food may be a major stressor for certain people, and the study suggested that food hardships significantly affect women's health.

The study authors wish to continue researching how food-related difficulties are linked to health problems. They also want to explore which types of programs can effectively improve nutrition and health in the U.S.

How to eat healthily if you live in a food desert

Even if you live in a food desert, you can follow a healthy diet if you keep these tips in mind:

  1. Buy frozen produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables are suitable alternatives for those who live in food deserts. The freezing process maintains nutritional value, and frozen food can be stored for months.
  2. Buy fresh food whenever you can. Take note of sales, then stock up when possible. Learn how to prep and freeze fruits and vegetables to significantly extend their shelf life for at least six months. If you have root vegetables, you can keep them in a cool, dry place like the fridge or an unheated basement for months.
  3. Start your own garden. If you have space, start a fruit and vegetable garden. Cultivating a garden with different nutritious plants gives you access to the micronutrients that you need. At the end of the season, you may can or freeze excess harvest. If you live in an apartment, you can still grow nutritious herbs right in your kitchen or on windowsills.

If you're fortunate enough not to live in a food desert, stop eating junk food. Make healthy food choices now to maintain your overall health and well-being.

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