“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, Professor at University of British Columbia.
“This is quite alarming and indicates a significant public health issue,” Black said.
Data were stratified by every year of age from birth to one year and up to four years of age, the study said.
According to the researchers, about 27 per cent of the children in the study lived in households that had food insecurity, including more than 13 per cent in extremely deprived households with child food insecurity.
The vast majority of households in the study qualified for federal and state food assistance programmes that provided supplemental nutrition.The researchers identified food security based on interviews, using a standard questionnaire, with mothers of the children conducted by the Children’s HealthWatch.
While the study did not find a link between food insecurity and obesity risk, it did find that food insecurity was associated with significantly increased risks of a child being in poor health and experiencing a developmental delay, with the odds increasing with a child’s age up to age four.