Food Insecurity is Associated with Maladaptive Eating Behaviors and Objectively Measured Overeating

Emma J. Stinson, Susanne B. Votruba, Colleen Venti, Marisol Perez La Mar, Jonathan Krakoff, Marci E. Gluck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Objective: The association between food insecurity and obesity may be partially explained by overeating in response to unpredictable food availability cycles. The aim of this study was to measure objective food intake in food-insecure individuals. Methods: Eighty-two volunteers (53 m; BMI 29 ± 7; 38 ± 12 years) were admitted to our inpatient Clinical Research Unit and completed the Food Security Short Form, Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire, Gormally Binge Eating Scale, and body composition assessment (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry). After 5 days of a weight-maintaining diet, participants self-selected food from an ad libitum vending machine paradigm for 3 days. Mean daily intake (kilocalories), macronutrient intake, and percentage of weight-maintaining energy needs (%WMEN) were calculated. Results: Based on Food Security Short Form cutoffs, food-insecure participants (n = 46; 56%) had higher body weight (P = 0.04), fat-free mass (P = 0.05), disinhibition (P = 0.008), hunger (P = 0.02), and binge-eating scores (P = 0.02) but not cognitive restraint (P = 0.37) compared with food-secure individuals. They overate more kilocalories (P = 0.001), %WMEN (P = 0.003), fat (P = 0.003), and carbohydrates (P = 0.004) during the vending machine paradigm, continued to increase their hourly rate of kilocalories (group × time; β = 37.7 cumulative kcal/h; P < 0.0001), and ate more total kilocalories across the 72 hours (β = 47.09 kcal/h; P = 0.003). Conclusions: Food insecurity may amplify susceptibility to weight gain via overeating during times of unlimited food access.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1841-1848
Number of pages8
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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