Food insecurity, meal behaviors, beverage intake, and body mass index in underserved adolescents

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Objective. Associations between food insecurity, meal patterns, beverage intake, and body mass index (BMI) were investigated using data from the Howard Meharry Adolescent Caries Study. Methods. Secondary analyses of food security status used the Wilcoxon rank sum, chi-square, and Fisher’s exact tests. Results. The group of adolescents (n=627) was 42.1% male, 14.2±1.9 years, 86.9% African American, and 19.9% food-insecure. Meal frequency, meal structure, most beverage intake, and BMI did not differ by food-security status. Adolescents from Washington, DC were more likely to be food insecure than adolescents from Nashville, TN (P=0.003). Most had unstructured meal patterns and irregular breakfast intake. Median milk intake was below and sugar-sweetened beverage intake above dietary recommendations. Conclusions. This study extends our knowledge concerning food insecurity in urban African American adolescents and suggests public health initiatives designed to encourage meal structure, increase milk intake, and reduce sugar-sweetened beverage intake can improve diet quality of underserved youth.

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