Childhood obesity is a critical health issue. The etiology of childhood obesity is multifactorial, with age, gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status interacting to affect risk. Food insecurity is known to be associated with risk of childhood obesity, but the body of evidence regarding Koreans is lacking. This study investigated the association between childhood obesity and household food insecurity in Koreans. Other lifestyle and nutritional factors associated with obesity were also examined.
Using data from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a cross-sectional study was conducted with 1527 boys and 1366 girls. A comparison of general characteristics and nutritional intake between the groups was made using Student’s t tests, χ tests, and general linear models. The association between childhood obesity and food insecurity was estimated with logistic regression models, and presented with odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals either with or without covariates.
Boys who were obese dined out less frequently and engaged less in regular exercise, but no differences in nutrition intake were observed between children who were and were not obese. Girls who were obese were less likely to have a caregiver and consumed a higher percentage of energy from protein. Boys experiencing household food insecurity were less likely to be obese (adjusted odds ratio, 0.25; 95% confidence interval, 0.06-0.99), but girls with food insecurity were at three times higher risk of obesity (adjusted odds ratio, 3.00; 95% confidence interval, 1.23-7.31).
Differential lifestyle factors are associated with obesity phenotypes in boys and girls. Food insecurity also showed a contrasting association with obesity risk by gender in young Koreans.

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