December 5, 2022—In this Significant 3 Q&A, Cindy Leung, assistant professor of community wellbeing nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan University of Community Well being, discusses a the latest paper she co-authored linking food stuff insecurity and food stuff addiction, as properly as her other investigate attempts.
Q: Convey to us about your latest examine and the appealing results all around foods insecurity.
A: Food stuff insecurity is a socioeconomic problem of constrained obtain to affordable and healthful foods. In my prior investigation, I uncovered that people today enduring meals insecurity are a lot more probably to have poorer top quality diets and are at higher possibility for continual problems. Food stuff dependancy is a more recent paradigm the place we’re observing ordeals of withdrawal and other signs similar to people, for case in point, of alcohol abuse, as a end result of taking in very processed meals. Realizing that highly processed foods are considerable in reduced-cash flow neighborhoods, we puzzled if people today who are foodstuff insecure may possibly be additional vulnerable to food items habit.
In two different samples—one of minimal-income pregnant ladies in the San Francisco Bay space, and a different of mothers of preadolescent small children in southeast Michigan—we uncovered a consistent and important beneficial association involving foodstuff insecurity and foodstuff habit, even after adjusting for sociodemographic factors like education, race/ethnicity, and profits level.
In our review, we could not tease aside the mechanisms powering this backlink, but I think that worry and ubiquitous accessibility to very processed foods are major parts. Food items insecurity is a resource of long-term stress—a consistent cognitive system to control one’s foods resources in relation to the family’s foodstuff demands. This serious worry may perhaps alter the reward method to overconsume really processed meals, escalating the risk of food stuff addiction above time. The mixture of superior tension and effortless obtain to really palatable meals may possibly also demonstrate the better risks of other chronic conditions that we have viewed in relation to foods insecurity.
Q: What other investigate issues are you hunting at?
A: When we communicate about interventions for food insecurity, we automatically go to our federal food applications. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve noticed swift expansions of our most important nutrition programs, displaying that they are important levers to lower foodstuff insecurity for the duration of nationwide emergencies. My colleagues and I are analyzing some of these latest insurance policies. I am also actually intrigued in looking at how poverty alleviation programs may cut down food insecurity. Programs and procedures that handle the minimal wage or lower unemployment could have secondary impacts on stopping foodstuff insecurity, which is so intimately tied to poverty.
Different from this, I am fascinated in screening and evaluating environmental interventions to enhance dietary ingestion. I have been associated in some large-scale interventions to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage usage. At the moment, I am functioning with a team at the College of Michigan to check several dining hall changes to cut down pink meat use, which is an important aim for equally well being and sustainability reasons.
Q: What does it necessarily mean to you as an alumna to be back at the University as a college member?
I am excited and humbled to be back again at Harvard Chan College, wherever I got my foundational schooling and released my profession. Now, 10 decades later, I think I have a much more holistic point of view of how I can get my work to the upcoming phase. I also come to feel incredibly privileged to do the job together with my former mentors and colleagues, and the increasingly gifted pool of learners that we have.
Total, I am truly optimistic about rising my investigate method at the College, focusing on the intersection of nutrition and wellness fairness. I am deeply committed to serving the general public well being group in that house.