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Keywords:

  • Childhood overweight;
  • food insecurity;
  • paediatric obesity;
  • poverty

Summary

In the USA, several nutrition-related issues confront the normal growth, maturation and development of children and adolescents including obesity and food insecurity. The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of the concept of food insecurity and a summary of studies that have examined the association between food insecurity and overweight/obesity in children and adolescents. Besides the initial case report, we review 21 studies (16 cross-sectional and five prospective studies) that have been published on this topic as of December 2009. As there is limited literature in this area, we review studies that sample children and adolescents in the USA. The results are mixed with positive, negative and null associations. The reasons for the mixed results are difficult to disentangle. Among earlier studies, small samples hampered definitive conclusions. More recent studies with larger samples have overcome these limitations and tend to find no associations between these constructs. Nonetheless, all of the studies to date have shown that food insecurity and overweight co-exist – that is, even though there may not be statistically significant differences in overweight between food-insecure and food-secure children, the prevalence of overweight remains relatively high in food-insecure children.