Is intuitive eating a privileged approach? Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between food insecurity and intuitive eating

Public Health Nutr. 2023 Jul;26(7):1358-1367. doi: 10.1017/S1368980023000460. Epub 2023 Mar 10.


Objective: To examine: (1) cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between measures of food insecurity (FI; household status and youth-reported) and intuitive eating (IE) from adolescence to emerging adulthood; and (2) the association between FI persistence and IE in emerging adulthood.

Design: Longitudinal population-based study. Young people reported IE and FI (two items from the US Household Food Security Module) in adolescence and emerging adulthood. Parents provided data on household FI via the six-item US Household Food Security Module in adolescence.

Setting: Adolescents (Mage = 14·3 ± 2 years) and their parents, recruited from Minneapolis/St. Paul public schools in 2009-2010 and again in 2017-2018 as emerging adults (Mage = 22·1 ± 2 years).

Participants: The analytic sample (n 1372; 53·1 % female, 46·9 % male) was diverse across race/ethnicity (19·8 % Asian, 28·5 % Black, 16·6 % Latinx, 14·7 % Multiracial/Other and 19·9 % White) and socio-economic status (58·6 % low/lower middle, 16·8 % middle and 21·0 % upper middle/high).

Results: In cross-sectional analyses, youth-reported FI was associated with lower IE during adolescence (P = 0·02) and emerging adulthood (P < 0·001). Longitudinally, household FI, but not adolescent experience of FI, was associated with lower IE in emerging adulthood (P = 0·01). Those who remained food-insecure (P = 0·05) or became food-insecure (P = 0·02) had lower IE in emerging adulthood than those remaining food-secure. All effect sizes were small.

Conclusions: Results suggest FI may exert immediate and potentially lasting impacts on IE. As evidence suggests IE is an adaptive approach conferring benefits beyond eating, it would be valuable for interventions to address social and structural barriers that could impede IE.

Keywords: Adolescence; Emerging adulthood; Food insecurity; Health equity; Intuitive eating.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Food Insecurity
  • Food Supply*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents*
  • Young Adult