Household food insecurity has been associated with adverse health outcomes; however, the mechanisms underlying these associations are not well-defined. Using data from 5005 adults from the 2007–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), we examined associations between household food insecurity and cumulative biological risk, a measure of the body’s physiological response to chronic stress. Household food security was assessed using the 18-item Household Food Security Survey Module. Marginal food security refers to 1–2 positive responses, and food insecurity refers to ≥3 positive responses. The cumulative biological risk scores were calculated based on the distributions of ten biomarkers from the cardiovascular, metabolic, and immune systems. Elevated biological risk was defined as a risk score of ≥3. Multivariable regression models were used to examine associations between food security and cumulative biological risk scores, adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics. After multivariable adjustment, food insecurity was associated with a 0.14-unit higher cumulative biological risk score (95% CI 0.05–0.22, p
-trend = 0.003) and higher odds of elevated biological risk (OR 1.20, 95% CI 1.05–1.37, p
-trend = 0.003). These associations differed by gender. Among women, food insecurity was associated with 0.30-unit higher cumulative biological risk score (95% CI 0.14–0.45, p
-trend = 0.0004) and higher odds of elevated biological risk (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.29–2.00, p
-trend < 0.0001). These associations were not observed in men. Women experiencing food insecurity demonstrated elevated levels of biological risk. These findings support the hypothesis that food insecurity may be associated with women’s chronic health outcomes through the pathway of chronic stress. Further research is needed to understand why these associations were not observed in men.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.