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By: Rafael Guimaraes de Lima E Silva

In 2021, more than 34 million people were food insecure in the United States according to a USDA report ( Coleman-Jensen et al., 2021). The COVID-19 pandemic led to increased food insecurity worldwide (Liu & Eicher-Miller, 2021), especially for families with children and communities of color, which already faced higher hunger rates before the pandemic (Coleman-Jensen et al., 2021).

Food insecurity can contribute to a low intake of nutritionally adequate foods that meet individuals’ dietary recommendations (Gundersen & Ziliak, 2015). A literature review published in 2021 showed that reduced food security is associated with decreased likelihood of self-reported good cardiovascular health and CVD-related outcomes such as coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, peripheral arterial disease, and hypertension (Liu & Eicher-Miller, 2021).

In addition to poor diet, food insecurity is also associated with increased depressive symptoms and stress (Pourmotabbed et al., 2020). Chronic stress can affect blood glucose, serum lipids and blood pressure (O’Connor, Thayer, & Vedhara, 2021).

Additionally, food insecurity is also associated with increased rates of mental health problems and depression  (Pourmotabbed et al., 2020), diabetes (Gundersen & Ziliak, 2015), and  hypertension (Seligman, Laraia, & Kushel, 2010).


According to the study published by Seligman, Laraia, & Kushel, 2010, food insecurity is associated with a 20% increase in the risk of self-reported measures of hypertension and a 30% increase in the risk of self-reported hyperlipidemia.

In 2000, it was estimated that 972 million adults had some degree of hypertension (Kearney et al., 2005), meanwhile the World Health Organization estimates that 1.28 billion adults between 30 and 79 years old have hypertension (World Health Organization, 2023). These values show an increase of 31.7% in the number of hypertensive people in the world. Furthermore, it is estimated that 46% of these adults are unaware that they have the disease and less than half are diagnosed and treated. (World Health Organization, 2023). Meanwhile, the prevalence of hypertension in the USA in 2017-2018 was 49.64% corresponding to 115 million people (Chobufo et al., 2020).


A study published by in 2015 shows that individuals with food insecurity are approximately twice as likely to develop diabetes, compared to individuals with food security. The results from this study show that 10% of individuals with mild food insecurity and 16% of individuals with severe food insecurity had diabetes (Gundersen & Ziliak, 2015).

These findings show the importance of public policies and the need to identify vulnerable groups that suffer from food insecurity. Access to food assistance programs can promote awareness of and access to healthy foods, which can improve nutrition and food security (Liu & Eicher-Miller, 2021). According to Feeding America, an estimated 53 million people turned to a network of food banks and food pantries to get free food in 2021, helping people move out of food insecurity and promoting a better quality of life for those individuals (Feeding America, 2022).



Chobufo, M. D., Gayam, V., Soluny, J., Rahman, E. U., Enoru, S., Foryoung, J. B., … Nfor, T. (2020). Prevalence and control rates of hypertension in the USA: 2017-2018. International Journal of Cardiology. Hypertension, 6(100044), 100044. doi:10.1016/j.ijchy.2020.100044

Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M. P., & Gregory, C. A. (n.d.). Household food security in the United States in 2021. Retrieved June 28, 2023, from

Feeding America. Charitable Food Assistance Participation in 2021. (2022). Available online at:

Gundersen, C., & Ziliak, J. P. (2015). Food insecurity and health outcomes. Health Affairs (Project Hope), 34(11), 1830–1839. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0645

Kearney, P. M., Whelton, M., Reynolds, K., Muntner, P., Whelton, P. K., & He, J. (2005). Global burden of hypertension: analysis of worldwide data. Lancet, 365(9455), 217–223. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)17741-1

Liu, Y., & Eicher-Miller, H. A. (2021). Food insecurity and cardiovascular disease risk. Current Atherosclerosis Reports, 23(6), 24. doi:10.1007/s11883-021-00923-6

O’Connor, D. B., Thayer, J. F., & Vedhara, K. (2021). Stress and health: A review of psychobiological processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 72(1), 663–688. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-062520-122331

Pourmotabbed, A., Moradi, S., Babaei, A., Ghavami, A., Mohammadi, H., Jalili, C., … Miraghajani, M. (2020). Food insecurity and mental health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Public Health Nutrition, 23(10), 1778–1790. doi:10.1017/S136898001900435X

Seligman, H. K., Laraia, B. A., & Kushel, M. B. (2010). Food insecurity is associated with chronic disease among low-income NHANES participants. The Journal of Nutrition, 140(2), 304–310. doi:10.3945/jn.109.112573

World Health Organization. (2023). Retrieved June 22, 2023, from