Food insecurity is associated with subsequent cognitive decline in the Boston Puerto Rican health study

Janice C. Wong, Tammy Scott, Parke Wilde, Yin Ge Li, Katherine L. Tucker, Xiang Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Background: Living with hunger and fear of not having enough food is a growing worldwide concern. In our previous cross-sectional study, we found that food insecurity was associated with poor cognitive function, but the direction of this relation remains unclear. Objective: We investigated whether food insecurity is associated with subsequent cognitive decline. Methods: This was a longitudinal study of 597 participants aged 40-75 y from the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study cohort, with aMini-Mental State Examination score of ≥ 24 at baseline. Food security was assessed at baselinewith the US Household Food Security Scale. Participants completed cognitive batteries, which included 7 cognitive tests, twice-at baseline and again at a 2-y follow-up. The primary outcome was the change in global cognitive function over 2 y. Multiple linear regression was used to obtain adjusted mean differences and 95% CIs in cognitive decline across baseline food security status. Results: Food insecurity at baseline was associated with a 2-y decline in global cognitive function (P-trend = 0.03) after adjusting for relevant potential confounders, including age, sex, baseline cognitive score, body mass index, education, poverty, acculturation score, depression score, smoking status, use of alcohol, physical activity score, presence of diabetes and hypertension, apolipoprotein E status, plasma homocysteine, healthy eating index, and time between baseline and follow-up measures. Compared with the food-secure group, the decline in the very low food security group was greater [mean difference:20.26 (95% CI:20.41,20.10)]. Baseline food insecurity was significantly associated with a faster decline in executive function (P-trend = 0.02) but not memory function (P-trend = 0.66). Conclusions: Food insecurity was associated with faster cognitive decline in this cohort of Puerto Rican adults. Our study emphasizes the importance of developing interventions for food insecurity that take into account the impact of food insecurity on cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1740-1745
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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