Food insecurity in toddler years linked to poor health, but not obesity

Young children, who grow up in homes with limited access to nutritious foods (known as food insecurity), are more likely to experience poor overall health, hospitalizations, and developmental problems, but they are not at higher risk of developing obesity, a new University of Maryland School of Medicine study finds.

The research, published today in the journal Pediatrics, examined the impact of food insecurity among children from birth to age four and found that obesity rates generally did not differ among those who lived in households with food insecurity compared to those who had access to healthy foods.

“We did find, however, that growing up in a low-income community — typically with a lack of access to healthy grocery stores, an overabundance of fast food chains, and few safe areas to play outdoors — increased a preschooler’s risk of developing obesity regardless of food security,” said study leader Maureen Black, PhD, a Professor of Pediatrics at UMSOM. “This is quite alarming and indicates a significant public health issue.”