A new study finds teens whose families can't always afford to buy food have higher rates of obesity than their peers.
The survey of nearly 4,800 Twin Cities teenagers also found that kids who had to skip meals due to finances often chose unhealthy food when they did eat. Their diet was usually higher in calories and fat.
Researcher Rachel Widome says there were also weight differences among the teens, depending on their level of hunger.
Kids who went hungry every month had a slightly higher rate of obesity than their peers. But teens who only experienced hunger occasionally had a significantly higher rate of obesity.
"The households that are sort of experiencing hunger or food shortages from time to time, they might be more likely to go through these cycles of sort of overeating in response to the hunger," said Widome.
Widome says she expects that the differences in teen eating habits might be even more dramatic today, given the economic crisis.
The findings are based on student questionnaires completed 10 years ago. The project was so large that researchers are still analyzing the data.
The U of M plans to launch a followup food study later this year.