A mixed-method systematic review and meta-analysis of the influences of food environments and food insecurity on obesity in high-income countries

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Abstract

Background: Obesity remains a serious public health concern in rich countries and the current obesogenic food environments and food insecurity are predictors of this disease. The impact of these variables on rising obesity trends is however mixed and inconsistent, due to measurement issues and cross-sectional study designs. To further the work in this area, this review aimed to summarize quantitative and qualitative data on the relationship between these variables, among adults and children across high-income countries.

Methodology: A mixed-method systematic review was conducted using 13 electronic databases, up to August 2021. Two authors independently extracted data and evaluated quality of publications. Random-effects meta-analysis was used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) for the association between food insecurity and obesity. Where statistical pooling for extracted statistics related to food environments was not possible due to heterogeneity, a narrative synthesis was performed.

Results: Meta-analysis of 36,113 adults and children showed statistically significant associations between food insecurity and obesity (OR: 1.503, 95% confidence interval: 1.432 – 1.577, P < 0.05). Narrative synthesis showed association between different types of food environments and obesity. Findings from qualitative studies regarding a reliance on energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods owing to their affordability and accessibility aligned with findings from quantitative studies. Results from both qualitative and quantitative studies regarding the potential links between increased body weight and participation in food assistance programmes such as food banks were supportive of weight gain.

Conclusions: To address obesity among individuals experiencing food insecurity, holistic approaches are required, especially amongst those surrounded by unhealthy food environments which could potentially influence food choice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFood Science and Nutrition
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2022

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