Food insecurity can hamper children’s mental and physical development: review

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Evidence summarized in the review demonstrates that food insecurity (FI), even if only temporary, is associated with developmental and behavioral progress in children from infancy through adolescence.

This effect has been observed in western industrialized countries and even after controlling for influencing variables.

The results give a lot of credit to interventions designed to give children a good nutritional start in life.

School food standards in the UK apply to all schools and academies maintained established before 2010 and after June 2014.

They must provide high quality meat, poultry or fatty fish, fruits and vegetables and bread, other grains and potatoes.

Drinks with added sugar, crisps, chocolate or sweets in school canteens and vending machines as well as more than 2 servings of fried, breaded or breaded food per week are not allowed.

“Our results suggest that infant nutrition programs, which are known to reduce food insecurity, may improve children’s potential to learn, pay attention and have better emotional health,”explained co-author Dr. Deborah Frank, professor of child health and wellness at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

Food insecurity in Europe

According to EuroStat data, Ireland and Portugal were hit hard by the financial crisis, yet between 2009 and 2012 food insecurity increased by 1.8% in Ireland but actually fell in Portugal. © iStock / Tijana87

The increase in food insecurity in Europe has been strongly associated with malnutrition and deteriorating mental health, reduced ability to manage disease and, more seriously, children’s health.

In 2013-2014, the Trussell Trust, a UK network of food banks, provided food to over 900,000 adults and children, a 163%increase over the previous year.

The increase in the number of people seeking emergency food assistance has also been reportedby Greek, Spanish and French charities.

This latest review consisted of 23 peer-reviewed articles examining the links between FI and child developmental and behavioral outcomes in Western countries.

These findings included early cognitive development, school performance, inattention, and depression in four groups, infants and toddlers, preschoolers, school age, and adolescents.

Various approaches to measure food insecurity were also defined and the variables were taken into account in the studies.

Concerning findings

The team’s results were dismal, as studies in infants and toddlers suggested that FI contributed to developmental delays, mental competence, and low cognitive assessment scores.

Work in preschool children has linked FI, externalizing and internalizing behaviors, and mental health symptoms.

School-aged children suffered from poorer academic performance, increased hyperactivity, inattention, aggressive behavior, emotional problems, and less responsive interpersonal relationships.

Finally, the adolescents presented with anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, dysthymia and substance use disorders.

“The evidence summarized here should encourage developmental behavioral health care providers to identify food insecurity in their practices and intervene when possible.”the exam is over.

“Conversely, children whose families are identified as food insecure in primary care settings warrant enhanced developmental behavioral assessment and possible intervention. “

Source: Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics

Published online ahead of print: DOI: 10.1097 / DBP.00000000000000383

“Association of food insecurity with behavioral, emotional, and academic outcomes in children: a systematic review”.

Authors: Shankar, Priya MPH; Chung, Rainjade BA; Frank, Deborah A. MD


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