A local blogger posted this today:
“I noted with interest last week’s report that Winston-Salem has ‘the worst rate of family hunger of any metropolitan area in the nation.’
Yet Twin City kids are fat, a problem that requires Mayor Allen Joines’ urgent attention.
I’m having trouble reconciling this problem.”
Actually, “fat and hungry” is not a contradiction. When you’re involved in ministry to the poor (particularly poor children), you learn quickly that obesity is a problem among low-income people. When you’re eating on Food Stamps or trying to stretch your dollars, you often have to choose the cheapest food — which is almost always the worst for you. Research backs that up:
From the American Academy of Pediatrics, “The Association of Child and Household Food Insecurity With Childhood Overweight Status”, Patrick H. Casey, et al. [emphasis mine] :
Household and child food insecurity are associated with being at risk for overweight and overweight status among many demographic categories of children. Child food insecurity is independently associated with being at risk for overweight status or greater while controlling for important demographic variables.
From the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “Poverty and obesity: the role of energy density and energy costs“, Adam Drewnowski [emphasis mine]:
“This review focuses on the relation between obesity and diet quality, dietary energy density, and energy costs. Evidence is provided to support the following points. First, the highest rates of obesity occur among population groups with the highest poverty rates and the least education. Second, there is an inverse relation between energy density (MJ/kg) and energy cost ($/MJ), such that energy-dense foods composed of refined grains, added sugars, or fats may represent the lowest-cost option to the consumer. Third, the high energy density and palatability of sweets and fats are associated with higher energy intakes, at least in clinical and laboratory studies. Fourth, poverty and food insecurity are associated with lower food expenditures, low fruit and vegetable consumption, and lower-quality diets. A reduction in diet costs in linear programming models leads to high-fat, energy-dense diets that are similar in composition to those consumed by low-income groups. Such diets are more affordable than are prudent diets based on lean meats, fish, fresh vegetables, and fruit.”
From the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “The economics of obesity: dietary energy density and energy cost”, Adam Drewnowski [emphasis mine] :
“Highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the United States are found among the lower-income groups. The observed links between obesity and socioeconomic position may be related to dietary energy density and energy cost. Refined grains, added sugars, and added fats are among the lowest-cost sources of dietary energy. They are inexpensive, good tasting, and convenient. In contrast, the more nutrient-dense lean meats, fish, fresh vegetables, and fruit generally cost more. An inverse relationship between energy density of foods (kilojoules per gram) and their energy cost (dollars per megajoule) means that the more energy-dense diets are associated with lower daily food consumption costs and may be an effective way to save money. However, economic decisions affecting food choice may have physiologic consequences. Laboratory studies suggest that energy-dense foods and energy-dense diets have a lower satiating power and may result in passive overeating and therefore weight gain. Epidemiologic analyses suggest that the low-cost energy-dense diets also tend to be nutrient poor. If the rise in obesity rates is related to the growing price disparity between healthy and unhealthy foods, then the current strategies for obesity prevention may need to be revised. Encouraging low-income families to consume healthier but more costly foods to prevent future disease can be construed as an elitist approach to public health. Limiting access to inexpensive foods through taxes on frowned upon fats and sweets is a regressive measure. The broader problem may lie with growing disparities in incomes and wealth, declining value of the minimum wage, food imports, tariffs, and trade. Evidence is emerging that obesity in America is a largely economic issue.”
>> Read additional scholarly, peer-reviewed articles on research linking poverty and obesity.