Skip to main content

Toward a mechanistic understanding of the impact of food insecurity on obesity

  • Simone Dohle (a1) and Wilhelm Hofmann (a1)

Nettle et al. provide a useful but incomplete analysis of the drivers of obesity. In this commentary, we argue that a dual-motives conceptualization of self-control, together with insights from the psychology of (perceived and actual) scarcity, might help advance a more fine-grained mechanistic understanding of the observed association between food insecurity and obesity.

Hide All
De Ridder, D. T. D. & De Wit, J. B. F. (2006) Self-regulation in health behaviour: Concepts, theories, and central issues. In: Self-regulation in health behavior, ed. De Ridder, D. T. D. & De Wit, J. B. F.. Wiley.
Drewnowski, A. & Specter, S. (2004) Poverty and obesity: The role of energy density and energy costs. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 79(1):616.
French, S. A., Story, M. & Jeffery, R. (2001) Environmental influences on eating and physical activity. Annual Review of Public Health 22(1):309–35. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.22.1.309.
Friese, M., Hofmann, W. & Wänke, M. (2008) When impulses take over: Moderated predictive validity of explicit and implicit attitude measures in predicting food choice and consumption behaviour. British Journal of Social Psychology 47:397419.
Fujita, K. (2011) On conceptualizing self-control as more than the effortful inhibition of impulses. Personality and Social Psychology Review 15(4):352–66.
Gornick, J. C. & Boeri, N. (2016) Gender and poverty. In: The oxford handbook of the social science of poverty, Brady, D. & Burton, L., pp. 221–46. Oxford University Press.
Hill, J. O. & Peters, J. C. (1998) Environmental contributions to the obesity epidemic. Science 280(5368):1371–74. doi: 10.1126/science.280.5368.1371.
Hill, J. O., Wyatt, H. R., Reed, G. W. & Peters, J. C. (2003) Obesity and the environment: Where do we go from here? Science 299(5608):853–55. doi: 10.1126/science.1079857.
Hofmann, W., Friese, M. & Wiers, R. W. (2008) Impulsive versus reflective influences on health behavior: A theoretical framework and empirical review. Health Psychology Review 2(2):111–37. doi: 10.1080/17437190802617668.
Kendall, A., Olson, C. M. & Frongillo, E. A. Jr., (1995) Validation of the Radimer/Cornell measures of hunger and food insecurity. Journal of Nutrition 125(11):2793–801.
Kidd, C., Palmeri, H. & Aslin, R. N. (2013) Rational snacking: Young children's decision-making on the marshmallow task is moderated by beliefs about environmental reliability. Cognition 126(1):109–14. Available at:
Mani, A., Mullainathan, S., Shafir, E. & Zhao, J. (2013) Poverty impedes cognitive function. Science 341(6149):976–80.
Mischel, W. (1961) Father-absence and delay of gratification: Cross-cultural comparisons. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 63(1):116–24.
Mischel, W. (2014) The marshmallow test: Mastering self-control. Little, Brown.
Mischel, W. & Grusec, J. (1967) Waiting for rewards and punishments: Effects of time and probability on choice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 5(1):2431.
Ng, M., Fleming, T., Robinson, M., Thomson, B., Graetz, N., Margono, C., Mullany, E. C., Biryukov, S., Abbafati, C., Abera, S. F., Abraham, J. P., Abu-Rmeileh, N. M., Achoki, T., AlBuhairan, F. S., Alemu, Z. A., Alfonso, R., Ali, M. K., Ali, R., Guzman, N. A., Ammar, W., Anwari, P., Banerjee, A., Barquera, S., Basu, S., Bennett, D. A., Bhutta, Z., Blore, J., Cabral, N., Nonato, I. C., Chang, J. C., Chowdhury, R., Courville, k. J., Criqui, M. H., Cundiff, D. K., Dabhadkar, K. C., Dandona, L., Davis, A., Dayama, A., Dharmaratne, S. D., Ding, E. L., Durrani, A. M., Esteghamati, A., Farzadfar, F., Fay, D. F., Feigin, V. L., Flaxman, A., Forouzanfar, M. H., Goto, A., Green, M. A., Gupta, R., Hafezi-Nejad, N., Hankey, G. J., Harewood, H. C., Havmoeller, R., Hay, S., Hernandez, L., Husseini, A., Idrisov, B. T., Ikeda, N., Islami, F., Jahangir, E., Jassal, S. K., Jee, S. H., Jeffreys, M., Jonas, J. B., Kabagambe, E. K., Khalifa, S. E., Kengne, A. P., Khader, Y. S., Khang, Y. H., Kim, D., Kimokoti, R. W., Kinge, J. M., Kokubo, Y., Kosen, S., Kwan, G., Lai, T., Leinsalu, M., Li, Y., Liang, X., Liu, S., Logroscino, G., Lotufo, P. A., Lu, Y., Ma, J., Mainoo, N. K., Mensah, G. A., Merriman, T. R., Mokdad, A. H., Moschandreas, J., Naghavi, M., Naheed, A., Nand, D., Narayan, K. M., Nelson, E. L., Neuhouser, M. L., Nisar, M. I., Ohkubo, T., Oti, S. O., Pedroza, A., Prabhakaran, D., Roy, N., Sampson, U., Seo, H., Sepanlou, S. G., Shibuya, K., Shiri, R., Shiue, I., Singh, G. M., Singh, J. A., Skirbekk, , Stapelberg, N. J., Sturua, L., Sykes, B. L., Tobias, M., Tran, B. X., Trasande, L., Toyoshima, H., van de Vijver, S., Vasankari, T. J., Veerman, J. L., Velasquez-Melendez, G., Vlassov, V. V., Vollset, S. E., Vos, T., Wang, C., Wang, X., Weiderpass, E., Werdecker, A., Wright, J. L., Yang, Y. C., Yatsuya, H., Yoon, J., Yoon, S. J., Zhao, Y., Zhou, M., Zhu, S., Lopez, A. D., Murray, C. J. & Gakidou, E. (2014) Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the global burden of disease study 2013. The Lancet 384(9945):766–81. doi:
Nord, M., Andrews, M. & Carlson, S. (2009) Household food security in the united states, 2008 (Economic Research Report Number 83). U.S. Department of Agriculture. Available at:
Pearce, D. (1978) The feminization of poverty: Women, work and welfare. Urban and Social Change Review 11:2336.
Radimer, K. L., Olson, C. M., Greene, J. C., Campbell, C. C. & Habicht, J. P. (1992) Understanding hunger and developing indicators to assess it in women and children. Journal of Nutrition Education 24:36S45S.
Rao, M., Afshin, A., Singh, G. & Mozaffarian, D. (2013) Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open 3(12). doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004277.
Shah, A. K., Mullainathan, S. & Shafir, E. (2012) Some consequences of having too little. Science 338(6107):682–85.
Shiv, B. & Fedorikhin, A. (2002) Spontaneous versus controlled influences of stimulus-based affect on choice behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 87(2):342–70. doi: 10.1006/obhd.2001.2977.
Vohs, K. D. (2013) The poor's poor mental power. Science 341(6149):969–70. doi: 10.1126/science.1244172.
Ward, A. & Mann, T. (2000) Don't mind if I do: Disinhibited eating under cognitive load. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78(4):753–63. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.78.4.753.
Wiers, R. W., Ames, S. L., Hofmann, W., Krank, M. & Stacy, A. W. (2010) Impulsivity, impulsive and reflective processes and the development of alcohol use and misuse in adolescents and young adults. Frontiers in Psychology 1:144. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00144.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed