Opportunistic food consumption in relation to childhood and adult food insecurity: An exploratory correlational study

Daniel Nettle*, Mona Joly, Eleanor Broadbent, Chloe Smith, Ellie Tittle, Melissa Bateson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Food insecurity is associated with high body weight for women but not men in affluent Western societies. However, it is not currently known what behavioural or psychological mechanisms drive this association. Moreover, it is also unknown whether only current experience of food insecurity in adulthood is important, or there are lasting effects of childhood experience. We carried out a mock ‘taste test’ where 126 adult volunteers had the opportunity to consume and rate senergy-dense snack foods. Current food insecurity was measured using the standard USDA measure, and in addition, we used a novel measure that also captures childhood experience of food insecurity. As well as the expected gender-specific association between current food insecurity and body weight, we found some evidence for associations between food insecurity and calorie consumption in the taste test, and liking of one of the foods, chocolate. However, associations between current food insecurity and the outcomes were moderated by childhood experience of food insecurity, with greater childhood food insecurity enhancing the positive effect of current food insecurity on body weight, but attenuating the positive effect of food insecurity on calorie consumption and liking for chocolate. These findings are exploratory, but they suggest that any effects of food insecurity in adulthood on eating and the hedonic value of foods may be moderated by childhood experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-229
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

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