The association of food insecurity with the relative reinforcing value of food, BMI, and gestational weight gain among pregnant women

Appetite. 2020 Aug 1:151:104685. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2020.104685. Epub 2020 Mar 27.


Objective: Food insecurity is associated with obesity among adults. During pregnancy, food insecurity increases obesity risk among mothers and infants. This study investigated the association of food security with pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), gestational weight gain (GWG) adequacy to date, and the relative reinforcing value (RRV) of food during pregnancy.

Methods: This secondary data analysis examined 258 pregnant women (mean gestational age = 21.21 ± 10.21 weeks) surveyed on pre-pregnancy weight, height, pregnancy due date and GWG to date, current diagnoses related to eating and pregnancy, and demographics. The survey also assessed current food security and RRV of meals, snacks, cognitive activities, and active activities. BMI was calculated from pre-pregnancy height and weight (kg/m2). Gestational weight gain adequacy to date was derived from the Institute of Medicine guidelines. Multivariable linear regression models were used to examine the relation of food security with pre-pregnancy BMI and RRVs of foods/activities. The relation between food security and GWG adequacy to date was examined using multinomial regression models.

Results: Lower food security was related to both greater pre-pregnancy BMI (β = 0.60, p < .001) and greater RRV of snack foods (β = 3.46, p < .05), after controlling for covariates. Lower food security was also related to GWG to date below recommended levels (OR = 1.25, p < .05).

Conclusions: Food insecurity is related to higher relative food reinforcement during pregnancy, and greater pre-pregnancy weight status. Future research should replicate and extend these findings by assessing them longitudinally to better evaluate the directions of these relationships.

Keywords: BMI; Food insecurity; Food reinforcement; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Food Insecurity
  • Gestational Weight Gain*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women