Is High Energy Dense Foods to Blame for Obesity in the Poor?
In today’s fast paced world, convenience is everywhere. Fast food chains are located around every turn of the road, enticing people with their low cost but energy dense meals. We may see the benefits of providing these low costs meals to our families and ourselves right now, but what costs do we pay later on in life as a result of this convenience? Today, a high-energy dense diet is mostly composed of refined grains, added sugars, and fats, which offers the lowest cost option to the consumer (Drewnowski & Specter, 2004). Poverty and food insecurity are associated with lower nutrient dense food consumption and food expenditures with overall lower quality diets. This lends poverty to partake in the consumption of low cost, but energy dense diets. These simple ideas make one take a second look at relationships between poverty and obesity and there link with the consumption of energy dense foods. It’s no secret that America is at its most overweight and obese than ever before, but poverty and high-energy dense foods are major factors lending a hand to this epidemic. Looking at the array of factors that interact to put the poor at a heightened risk for obesity, we can identify several Healthy People 2020 objectives that are relevant for obesity in the poor in relation to diet. These include health-related quality of life & well-being, where our target population will tend to lead a lower quality of life due to their susceptibility to disease; heart disease and stroke, with obesity, high energy dense foods, and physical inactivity all contributing to these disorders; nutrition and weight status, this being are primary health objective; and physical activity and social determinants of health.
Obesity is a major health outcome that has many behaviors and factors that contribute to this epidemic. One major behavior that can lead to obesity is the consumption of a high-energy dense diet. High-energy dense foods will have a high concentration of calories, but relatively few nutrients in a serving. One will examine this behavior, consumption of high-energy dense foods, in relation to obesity, while also taking a deeper look and studying its prevalence in the lower socioeconomic status population.
Before studying the relationship between obesity, energy density, and poverty, one must first have a general understanding of what the terms encompass. Energy density is the number of calories in a specific amount food, with high energy dense foods having lot of calories in a relatively small amount of food, while lower energy dense foods having a relatively few amount of calories in a large sum of food (Harms, 2011). Sweets and fats are examples of high-energy dense foods, while fiber, fruits, and vegetables are considered low-energy dense foods. Consumption of plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides feelings of fullness on fewer calories, however if one continually fill up on fats and sweets, overconsumption of daily calories is likely (Harms, 2011).
Overweight is defined as a body mass index of greater than 25, where obesity is a BMI greater than 30. Rising rates of obesity in the United States have been linked to food supply trends and the growing consumption of energy dense foods (Drewnowski & Specter, 2004). Rates of obesity tend to follow a socioeconomic gradient, where the burden of obesity falls disproportionately on people with limited resources (Drewnowski & Specter, 2004). In regards to our target populations, in 2010, 15.1% of Americans lived in poverty based on family income census data (Levine, 2011). So, are poverty and obesity linked? And how does high-energy dense foods play a role in the obese-poor. Poverty rates and obesity were reviewed across 3,139 counties in the U.S. The results showed that