Infants with deficient food security may have greater obesity risk

A researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggested a new report in his study. Household infants with inadequate food security tend to gain more weight in comparison with those infants with high food security. Pediatrics published this study on August 28.

Moreover, the study tracked nearly 700 infants in North Carolina over their first year of life with a regular interview with the mother of the infants.

The researchers found that when mothers reported inadequate food security as per the standards of government; the infants were likely to have high BMI (body mass indices), higher fat levels, and other measures resulting in a greater risk of obesity.


The reason behind the obesity risk of infants

The exact reason how food insecurity and higher obesity risk associated are not yet found. But it may be related to poor nutrition and overfeeding.

Moreover, the results suggest that household food insecurity may be especially hazardous for infants. Additionally, diet and weight gain in infancy will have an enormous impact on future risks o obesity and health-related conditions.

Sara Benjamin-Neelon, Ph.D., JD, is the study lead, the Helaine, and Sidney Lerner Associate Professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Behavior, and Society.

She started the study in 2013 when she was a faculty member at Duke University’s School of Medicine. She completed her data collected in 2017 at the Bloomberg School. Moreover, the 666 infants involved in the study were from lower-income households in Durham, NC. 

Nearly 68.6% of infants were African American, 14.9% were white, and 55.4% of the homes reported annual incomes below $20,000. Benjamin-Neelon and her team visited the infant’s house when they were 3, 6, 9, and 12 months old.  Besides this, they also interviewed the mothers by phone over the year.


Findings of the study

Benjamin-Neelon also directs the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion at the Bloomberg School. She said that their findings are especially relevant in the current COVID-19 crisis because there is such widespread food insecurity in the United States.

The researchers compared the weight and length of these infants to a global population of healthy infants from eight countries. Then they determined which infants are at risk of overweight.

They found that infants from low and very low food security households move into the overweight risk category. Infants from families with high and marginal food security move out of this category.

Additionally, infants in families with inadequate food security were significantly heavier in comparison with infants from food-secure households. Moreover, they also had more fat accumulation by standard caliper-based measures.

overfeeding leads to obesity

Possibilities of obesity in infants

Benjamin-Neelon says that one possible reason for this food insecurity obesity is the lower quality diet, which promotes obesity. Although the infants are in the first six months of life, they should consume only human breastmilk or infant formula.

The second possibility may be related to infant feeding practices. Usually, mothers wanting to check their infants are fed enough or not; they used to prop a bottle or encourage infants to finish the bottle.

Benjamin-Neelon and her colleagues found that the participation of mothers in either WIC and SNAP; the two federal food assistance did not modify the links between food insecurity and obesity.

The researchers believe that larger and longer-term studies are essential to solve the questions about food insecurity and obesity.

Moreover, only further studies would tell us whether the association of food insecurity and obesity in infancy continues to later childhood or not.

Check out the article for more information, Household Food Security and Infant Adiposity.”

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