Researchers find link between food insecurity and cardiovascular death risk

Food insecurity is one of the nation’s leading health and nutrition issues—about 13.7 million (10.5%) of households in the United States were food insecure at some time during 2019, a trend likely to increase in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to preliminary research conducted by researchers at Penn Medicine, increasing rates of food insecurity in counties across the United States are independently associated with an increase in cardiovascular death rates among adults between the ages of 20 and 64.

Two people wearing face coverings unload boxes of food for a food bank.
Volunteers at the Food Bank for Monterey County’s drive-through food distribution in June 2020.

The large-scale, national study, which will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020, provides evidence of the link between food insecurity and increased risk of cardiovascular death. This is one of the first national analyses to evaluate changes in both food security and cardiovascular mortality over time, and to see if changes in food insecurity impact cardiovascular health. The findings were also published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

“This research gives us a better understanding of the connection between economic distress and cardiovascular disease,” says Sameed Khatana, senior author of the study and instructor of Cardiovascular Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine. “What’s going on outside the clinic has significant impact on patients’ health. There are many factors beyond the medications we may be prescribing that can influence their wellbeing, food insecurity being one of them.”

Read more at Penn Medicine News.