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Food insecurity more than doubles the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes


Adults in Ontario who live in food-insecure households had more than twice the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, compared to those with food security, according to a new study from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

Household food insecurity is described as uncertain, insufficient, or inadequate food access, availability, and utilization due to limited financial resources, and the compromised eating patterns and food consumption that may result.

The study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, used data from nearly 5,000 Ontario adult respondents to the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey and linked it to health administrative data housed at ICES.

“Our study illustrates the importance of addressing poverty when designing policies and programs to reduce the population-wide growth of Type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Laura Rosella, adjunct scientist and site director at ICES UofT and assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions in Canada. More than 11 million Canadians live with diabetes or pre-diabetes, a climb in prevalence of 72 per cent in 10 years. The number of Canadians living with Type 2 diabetes is expected to rise to 13.9 million (33 per cent of Canadians) by 2026.

“Our findings indicate that food insecurity is independently associated with increased diabetes risk, even after we adjusted for a broad set of  other factors that have also been linked to the development of diabetes like obesity, smoking and alcohol use, which suggests that food insecurity should be considered a stand-alone risk factor,” adds Rosella.

Food insecurity has been identified as a significant social and health problem in Canada. In 2004, it was estimated that 9.2 per cent of Canadian households were food insecure. The most recent estimate from 2014 (excluding two provinces and one territory that opted not to measure food insecurity in 2014) indicates that this number has risen to 12 per cent, representing 3.2 million Canadians.

"Policy responses such as the Ontario Basic Income Pilot may better target the economic factors at the root of food insecurity, but additional efforts are needed to meaningfully address the broader systemic factors that shape food environments, access, and availability," says Christopher Tait, PhD candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the study’s lead author.

“The association between food insecurity and incident Type 2 diabetes in Canada: a population-based cohort study,” was published in PLOS ONE.

Author block: Christopher A. Tait, Mary R. L’Abbé, Peter M. Smith and Laura C. Rosella.

The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario


Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES
[email protected]
(o) 416-480-4780 or (c) 647-406-5996

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