Food Insecurity and Cognitive Function in Middle to Older Adulthood: A Systematic Review

Muzi Na, Nan Dou, Naiwen Ji, Dixin Xie, Jie Huang, Katherine L. Tucker, Xiang Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Food insecurity (FI) may limit cognitive functioning during aging. The goal of this systematic review was to summarize existing evidence linking FI and general or specific cognitive functions in middle and older adulthood. A systematic search of human studies published between 1 January 2000 and 30 April 2018 was conducted in PubMed, PsycINFO, and CAB Direct. Four independent reviewers assessed the eligibility of identified articles and conducted data extraction and data quality assessment. Ten studies were included in the review, including 1 cluster-randomized controlled trial, 2 longitudinal studies, and 7 cross-sectional studies. Three studies reported the association between early-life FI experience and a global cognitive function measure. Nine studies reported later-life FI experience in relation to global or specific cognitive functions. The results suggest an adverse association between FI experienced in early or later life and global cognitive function; and between later-life FI and executive function and memory. Findings from the review are preliminary because of sparse data, heterogeneity across study populations, exposure and outcome assessments, and potential risk of bias across studies. Future studies are recommended to better understand the role of FI in cognitive function, with the goal of identifying possible critical windows for correction of FI in vulnerable subpopulations to prevent neurocognitive deficit in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-676
Number of pages10
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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