Risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes results from the consumption of high energy, but nutrient-poor foods. Mexican-origin youth are at increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes at the United States border. The present study is of food insecurity* in Mexican-origin children living along the Texas border (in settlements called colonias). In this location, there are high rates of poverty and limited access to food of high nutritional value.
The present study is based on reports of fifty Mexican-origin children from ages 6 to 11 years. Each child was evaluated three times, and mothers and children were studied together. Interviews were in Spanish, and each child’s body-mass index (BMI) was recorded. Food security was evaluated by a previously developed scoring system. Information on food intakes for 3 nonconsecutive days was collected.
Energy dense diets reduce the intake of vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and dietary fiber, while increasing the intake of sugar, fats and sodium. Food insecure children eat more fats, saturated fats, sweets and fried foods, while consuming fewer fruit and vegetables.
The results of the testing showed that 42% of the children were overweight or obese. Sixty-four percent had low or very low food security, and only twenty-eight percent met their needs for calcium. None met the need for potassium or vitamin D. Ten percent met the need for fiber, and only 6% met the need for sodium. Intakes of essential nutrients were reduced, and intakes of fats and sugar were increased on the weekends especially. “At least one-third of children reported having to skip a meal, go hungry, or not eat for a whole day because of limited or no food resources in the home…”.
Conditions related to poor diet, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity are expected to increase in Mexican-origin children due to food insecurity. This population is expanding throughout the United States, and federal and local programs are needed to deal with these problems.
CONCLUSION: Food insecurity along the Mexican border is a serious problem! This can lead to long-term health consequences for anyone living in such conditions. Action is needed at both the federal and local levels to solve these health issues.
NOTE: *Food insecurity means not knowing where the next meal is coming from.
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