Food insecurity is when a household does not have consistent access to healthy food for everyone in the house, often because of a lack of money. It affects over 37 million Americans, which is more than 1 out of every 10 households. Food insecure households have cycles of food shortages, which can cause unhealthy behavior. For example, some eat cheap unhealthy foods, while others skip meals and binge eat when they have food. This is a problem because cheap foods often have high energy and low nutrients, such as refined grains like white rice, or trans fats and saturated fats in ice cream. This unhealthy food is a major risk for developing type 2 diabetes. To understand how food insecurity affects happiness and well-being, researchers in the United States recently measured both food insecurity and quality of life in 4,142 adults. Just over half of participants were women, 12.5% were Black, and 15.8% were Hispanic. About 1 in 10 did not have a high school diploma. About 1 in 7 reported food insecurity. Overall, food insecurity was linked to worse quality of life. This means that people who cannot always get healthy foods are less happy and less healthy than people who can get nutritious food. Over the past 50 years, food insecurity (not having access to healthy food) has replaced hunger (not having access to any food) as a major cause of America’s nutrition crisis. Quality of life must be considered when planning strategies to improve nutritional health.
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