Food Insecurity Linked With Chronic Stress

As families stock up on the ingredients for holiday baked goods and festive meals, even amid a cream cheese shortage, if possible consider picking up a few extra staples for your local food bank to help ease the stress of food insecurity.   According to a recent study published in JAMA Network Open, older adults who struggle with having enough money to buy the food they need also experience chronic stress that puts a strain on their body and health. 

As reported by AARP Magazine, researchers found that health data gathered from 14,394 adults over the age of 50 showed a link between food insecurity and an increase in composite allostatic load (AL) based on blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, and other biomarkers associated with chronic stress.   Moderate food insecurity resulted in a 5 percent increase in AL and severe food insecurity increased AL by 11 percent over adults who were food secure. 

The study also found that food assistance programs can help alleviate the chronic stress response associated with food insecurity and help prevent adverse health outcomes among older adults.  With mounting evidence of the connection between food insecurity and chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease, obesity, and pulmonary disease, providing nutritious, healthy meals to older adults in need is a cornerstone of wellness. 

Not only are older adults stressed by not having the money to put food on the table, but they are also often forced to choose cheap fast food or other inexpensive, high-calorie diets over nutritious meals.  People who live in areas where there is a lack of access to grocery stores – food deserts, where fresh food is unavailable or unaffordable often turn to packaged, shelf-stable foods that lack proper nutrition. 

As the pandemic persists and food prices remain high, many seniors will continue to face the challenge between buying healthy food and getting medical care or other necessities.  Learn more about the US Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs(SNAP) at Feeding America.   Visit Food Banks Canada to learn more about how to volunteer, make a donation or find a food bank near you.