Food Insecurity Linked to Metabolic Syndrome in Hispanic/Latino Youth

Caleb Rans, PharmD

March 16, 2022

Severe food insecurity was associated with metabolic syndrome and unfavorable cardiometabolic markers in Hispanic/Latino youth, researchers report.

The findings, published March 16 in Pediatrics, highlight the need to investigate interventions that address food insecurity among Hispanic/Latino youth, a segment of the U.S. population at high risk of cardiometabolic complications.

"Among Hispanic/Latino youth, no study, to our knowledge has evaluated food insecurity's role in metabolic syndrome and metabolic syndrome–relevant cardiometabolic markers in this population," lead author Luis E. Maldonado, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues explained.

The researchers conducted a cross-sectional study to evaluate the associations between lower household and child food security and metabolic syndrome, as well as clinically measured cardiometabolic markers, including fasting plasma glucose, waist circumference, triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C).

Household food security (high, marginal, low, very low) and child food security (high, marginal, low/very low) measures were evaluated separately, and were adjusted for participant age, sex, site, parental education, and poverty-income ratio.

Data were obtained from the Hispanic Community Children's Health Study/Study of Latino Youth, a study of offspring of adults enrolled in the Hispanic Community Health Survey/Study of Latinos.


The study cohort included 1,325 Hispanic/Latino youth aged 8-16 years. For both household food security and child food security, youth in the lowest food security category had significantly lower HDL-C compared with youth with high food security (household food security, –3.17; 95% confidence interval, –5.65 to –0.70; child food security, –1.81; 95% CI, –3.54 to –0.09).

In addition, low/very low compared with high child food security was associated with higher triglycerides (beta, 8.68; 95% CI, 1.75-15.61), higher fasting plasma glucose (beta, 1.37; 95% CI, 0.08-2.65), and metabolic syndrome composite variable expected log counts (beta, 2.12; 95% CI, 0.02-0.45).

Furthermore, the researchers found statistically significant interactions between each of the two food security measures and receipt of any food assistance in the previous year in models of triglycerides (P for interactions: household food security, .03 and child food security, .005) and HDL-C (P for interactions: household food security, .01 and child food security, .04).

After evaluating the effect of parental place of birth, they found a statistically significant association for triglycerides only (P for interactions: household food security, .05 and child food security, .008).

"Our study is among the first to document adverse associations between household and child food security measures with a metabolic syndrome score variable and several metabolic syndrome–relevant cardiometabolic markers among US Hispanic/Latino youth," the researchers wrote.

The researchers acknowledged that the cross-sectional nature of the study was a key limitation; thus, causality could not be inferred.

"In the future, we plan to conduct more qualitative work to better understand how Hispanic/Latino families respond to food insecurity, which may identify the factors that shape their response," study author Sandra S. Albrecht, PhD, of Columbia University, New York, NY, said in an interview.

Recommendations for Pediatricians

Food insecurity researcher Yankun Wang, PhD candidate at Indiana University, Bloomington, commented: "I would recommend pediatricians pay more attention to children from low-income households since they are more likely to have mental and physical health issues due to food insecurity.

"It can be very helpful if pediatricians could help families obtain SNAP benefits, enroll youth in the school breakfast and lunch programs, and promote nutrition education in schools," Wang added.

This study was supported by grant funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The authors reported no relevant disclosures.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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