How food insecurity fuels sugary drink consumption in vulnerable kids

A recent study published in the journal Nutrients describes how various socioeconomic vulnerabilities influence the association between household food insecurity and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) among children in the United States.

Study: Household Food Security and Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages among New York City (NYC) Children: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of 2017 NYC Kids’ Data. Image Credit: Thaweesak Thipphamon / Shutterstock.com Study: Household Food Security and Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages among New York City (NYC) Children: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of 2017 NYC Kids’ Data. Image Credit: Thaweesak Thipphamon / Shutterstock.com

Background

Household food insecurity, which is defined as a lack of consistent access to adequate foods to maintain a healthy lifestyle, can lead to unhealthy dietary behaviors, including consumption of SSBs.

The data obtained from Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates a higher prevalence of SSB intake among children and adolescents in households with low socioeconomic status. Various socioeconomic factors, such as federal-funded aid and parental immigration status, have been found to influence the adverse effects of food insecurity on SSB consumption.

In the current study, scientists explore the effects of various socioeconomic factors, including federal aid acceptance, parental immigration status, and chronic stress, on the relationship between low household food security and higher consumption of SSBs among children in the U.S. The researchers hypothesized that these three socioeconomic factors would increase the effect of food insecurity on SSB consumption.

Study design

The cross-sectional data from the 2017 New York City Kids Survey was analyzed to determine the relationship between food insecurity and SSB consumption. The surveys were conducted on 7,507 households with one or more children between zero and 13 years of age across New York City.

The data of 2,362 children attending kindergarten and beyond was analyzed in this study. The overall consumption of SSBs each day was determined from the survey data and categorized on a scale of one to three, in which one indicated no SSBs, two was less than one, and three reflected one or more SSBs each day. The combined effect of food insecurity and the three other socioeconomic factors of federal aid acceptance, parental immigration status, and chronic stress on SSB consumption was determined.

Important observations

The descriptive characterization of household characteristics revealed that households with food insecurity comprised 51% of Latino and 27% of Black non-Latino children. Moreover, significantly higher percentages of parents between 25 and 44 years were observed in households with low food security. Households categorized below the federal poverty level also had low food security.

Other factors associated with low household food security included chronic stress, federal aid acceptance, having an immigrant parent as the family head, and having parents or guardians with a high school or lower-level educational background.

Household food insecurity and SSB consumption

A higher percentage of children drinking one or more SSBs each day was observed in households with food insecurity as compared to that in high-food-security households. Comparatively, a lower percentage of children not drinking any SSB was found in low-food-security households as compared to that in high-food-security households.

After adjusting for various confounding factors, including age, sex, and ethnicity of children, parent’s age and education, number of other children in the household, and household poverty, the analysis revealed that children living in households with low food security have a higher risk of consuming SSBs.

Among various socioeconomic factors, chronic stress was associated with increased consumption of SSBs in households with low food security. However, no significant impact of federal aid on the association between food insecurity and SSB consumption was observed.

Among households with low food security, children with a U.S.-born parent were associated with a higher risk of SSB consumption than those with immigrant parents living in households with high food security.

Study significance

Children living in low-food-security households in New York City were found to consume more SSBs than children living in high-food-security households. Chronic stress and U.S. parental immigration status significantly magnify the association between low food security and higher SSB consumption among children in New York City.

The study findings highlight the significance of broader sociodemographic determinants that influence the consumption of SSB among vulnerable children in urban settings. 

Journal reference:
  • Florez, K. R., Albrecht, S. S., Hwang, N., et al. (2023). Household Food Security and Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages among New York City (NYC) Children: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of 2017 NYC Kids’ Data. Nutrients 15(18). doi:10.3390/nu15183945
Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta

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Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta

Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta is a science communicator who believes in spreading the power of science in every corner of the world. She has a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree and a Master's of Science (M.Sc.) in biology and human physiology. Following her Master's degree, Sanchari went on to study a Ph.D. in human physiology. She has authored more than 10 original research articles, all of which have been published in world renowned international journals.

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