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Researchers will measure mental and physical toll on women who do not have enough to eat
Women between 16 and 65 years old who struggle with access to affordable and nutritious food may qualify for Pennington's RESPONSES study and earn up to $200.
A new, first-of-a-kind study will examine how food insecurity influences the physical and mental health of Black women.
By measuring a number of psychological and physiological mechanisms, researchers at the Pennington Bimedical Research Center plan to gain a better understanding of the relationship between food insecurity and obesity.
“Food insecurity (which is lacking enough food for an active and healthy life) is associated with poor health outcomes, such as obesity. More than 18 percent of U.S. adults have food insecurity, and the rates are even higher among Black women,” said Candice Myers, PhD, director of the Social Determinants and Health Disparities Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
Food insecurity is also cyclic. Sometimes people have enough to eat and sometimes they suffer food shortages, said John Apolzan, PhD, director of the Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical. The RESPONSES study will investigate the stress from episodic food insecurity and its effect over time on body weight, and mental and physical health.
Drs. Myers and Apolzan are the co-principal investigators of the RESPONSES study, which will enroll 60 Black women with obesity, 30 of them with food insecurity and 30 who have enough food for an active and healthy life. The participants can be age 18 to 35.
The researchers will assess episodes of food insecurity and stress on a weekly basis. Participants will fill out questionnaires to assess psychological factors. Researchers will also measure physical responses to stress, such as the levels of cortisol and c-reactive protein.
Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands. When cortisol levels are too high, a person may gain weight rapidly and have hypertension (high blood pressure). C-reactive protein levels increase when inflammation in the body rises. High levels of C-reactive protein have been linked to heart disease.
The connection between food insecurity and obesity is not fully understood, Dr. Myers said. Studies like this one will help advance our knowledge of how this relationship works.
"The study has significant public health implications,” said John Kirwan, PhD, executive director at Pennington Biomedical. “New insights into the cyclic nature of food insecurity will help us address the underlying mechanisms of obesity, help offset food insecurity’s impacts on obesity, and reduce health disparities in minority communities.”
For more information about the study, click here, call (225) 763-3000, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The project is supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 1R21MD015791-01A1. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.