Researchers working to better understand the diets of younger women with disabilities found this group was more likely to report a poor diet and food insecurity.
"Eating a nutritious diet is central to preventing many chronic diseases. For women of reproductive age, a healthy diet can also support good outcomes during and after pregnancy," said study author Andrea Deierlein, an associate professor of public health nutrition at New York University's School of Global Public Health.
"But a healthy diet requires access to healthy foods and the resources or ability to prepare them, and women with disabilities may face obstacles due to medical conditions or physical limitations," she said in a university news release.
The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the years 2013 through 2018.
In these surveys, nearly 3,600 women ages 18 to 44 were asked about their food intake on a given day. They were also questioned about food security and participation in government food assistance programs.
The women were also asked if they had serious difficulty hearing, seeing, concentrating, walking, dressing, and/or running errands due to physical, mental, or emotional conditions. About 16% of respondents reported having a disability. About 6% had two or more types of disabilities.
Researchers found that women with disabilities were more likely to rate their diet as poor and their food security as low or very low. They were more likely to eat frozen foods and participate in food assistance programs, while being less likely to be the person in their households responsible for meal planning, preparing and food shopping.
When analyzing diet quality scores, the researchers found few differences by disability status, but women with two or more disabilities had slightly lower diet quality scores for fruit and protein-rich foods such as meat, nuts and seafood.
About 1 in 5 American women ages 18 to 44 has at least one disability related to hearing, vision, cognition, mobility, self-care or independent living.
"Learning more about the diets of women with disabilities will help us to better assess this population's diet quality and nutrient intake, identify barriers to improving diet, and develop tailored nutrition programs and policies, with the goal of reducing health disparities," Deierlein said.
More studies that examine the intersection of disability status and social determinants of health like neighborhood food environment, housing conditions and social support that affect food storage and preparation would help identify potential areas for intervention among all individuals with disabilities, the authors said.
The findings were published recently in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has more on healthy eating.
SOURCE: New York University, news release, Sept. 6, 2022