Steven Mahoney: The relationship between poverty, hunger, and eating habits

q8cujKQAn article posted by the Washington Post earlier this week highlighted a study that looked at the link between poverty, hunger, and eating habits.

The study, conducted by researchers at Texas Christian University, found that growing up poor promotes eating while not hungry as an adult, regardless of one’s wealth in adulthood. The study was conducted with undergraduate students, who were asked to rate chocolate chip cookies and pretzels.

Students were asked how hungry they were before testing. After rating students were told that they may eat whatever leftovers remained. After, students were questioned about their childhood wealth.

Researchers found that students who reported a history of childhood poverty ate more food than students who did not when reporting they were not hungry. There was no notable difference between students who reported feeling hungry.

n2VpXtjResearchers now wonder if a possible explanation is that early poverty experiences create a biological change in individuals that may last throughout their lifespan. The Association for Psychological Science says that this explanation makes sense, as it would help children survive in environments where food may not always be available.

It is well documented that low-income children, adolescents are more likely to be obese and that obesity often tracks into adulthood. Obese Americans are more at risk for psycho-social problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means that income and wealth inequality is a life or death battle and not a fleeting political talking point.

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