Hungerx20andx20Obesity - THE PARADOX OF HUNGER AND OBESITY...

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T HE P ARADOX OF H UNGER AND O BESITY IN A MERICA Hunger and food insecurity have been called America’s “hidden crisis.” At the same time, and apparently paradoxically, obesity has been declared an epidemic. Both obesity and hunger (and, more broadly, food insecurity) are serious public health problems, sometimes co-existing in the same families and the same individuals. Their existence sounds contradictory, but those with insufficient resources to purchase adequate food can still be overweight, for reasons that researchers now are beginning to understand. Policymakers and the public need to better grasp this apparent paradox if our nation is to grapple with these parallel threats to the well-being of many children and adults, and avoid potentially damaging policy prescriptions arising from a mistaken belief that food insecurity and obesity cannot co-exist. H UNGER AND F OOD I NSECURITY T HREATEN M ANY L OW - INCOME P EOPLE IN THE US Hunger and food insecurity (see text box for definitions) affect more than 30 million people each year, according to national studies carried out by the Census Bureau and the US Department of Agriculture. 1 Low- income households are much more likely than others to suffer from hunger and food insecurity since they have fewer resources to buy food. O BESITY IS G ROWING IN A LL P OPULATION G ROUPS Simply stated, obesity results when energy intake exceeds energy expenditure. This explanation, however, provides little insight into the important social and environmental causes of higher energy consumption or lower energy expenditures. These causes include energy-dense high-fat foods and larger portion sizes, for example, and lower levels of physical activity (at work, schools, home, and elsewhere). 2 Food insecurity occurs whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways, is limited or uncertain. Hunger is defined as the uneasy or painful sensation caused by a recurrent or involuntary lack of food and is a potential, although not necessary, consequence of food insecurity. Over time, hunger may result in malnutrition. Food insufficiency refers to an inadequate amount of food intake due to lack of resources. Overall, the American population is growing more obese. Some low-income populations are also overweight. 3 While the degree to which social, cultural, environmental, and genetic factors have contributed to the increase in obesity is not precisely known, we do know much that can help explain how low-income, food-insecure Americans can be overweight. C AN O BESITY C O - EXIST WITH H UNGER AND F OOD I NSECURITY ? While most Americans are affected by the social and environmental causes of higher energy consumption or lower energy expenditures previously described, many households face the additional burdens of low incomes, which often leave them insufficient money to buy food. Through recent research, scholars now are gaining a better understanding of how food
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2010 for the course NUFS 139 at San Jose State University .

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Hungerx20andx20Obesity - THE PARADOX OF HUNGER AND OBESITY...

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