Food insecurity and epigenetic aging in middle-aged and older adults.

TitleFood insecurity and epigenetic aging in middle-aged and older adults.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
AuthorsTamargo, JA, Cruz-Almeida, Y
Journalsocial science & medicine (1982)
ISSN Number1873-5347
KeywordsAged, Aged, 80 and over, Aging, Cross-Sectional Studies, DNA Methylation, Epigenesis, Genetic, Female, Food insecurity, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Socioeconomic factors, United States

BACKGROUND: Food insecurity is recognized as a key social determinant of health for older adults. While food insecurity has been associated with morbidity and mortality, few studies have examined how it may contribute to accelerated biological aging. A potential mechanism by which food insecurity may contribute to aging is via epigenetic alterations. We examined the relationship between food insecurity and epigenetic aging, a novel measure of biological aging, in a nationally representative sample of middle-aged and older adults in the United States.

METHODS: Cross-sectional analysis of adults 50 years of age and older from the 2016 Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Financial food insecurity was self-reported via two questions that ascertained having enough money for food or eating less than they felt they should. Epigenetic aging was measured via epigenetic clocks based on DNA methylation patterns that predict aging correlates of morbidity and mortality. Linear regressions were performed to test for differences in the epigenetic clocks, adjusting for biological, socioeconomic, and behavioral factors.

RESULTS: The analysis consisted of 3875 adults with mean age of 68.5 years. A total of 8.1% reported food insecurity. Food insecurity was associated with several characteristics, including younger age, race/ethnic minority, lower income, total wealth, and educational attainment, higher BMI, and less physical activity. Food insecurity was associated with accelerated epigenetic aging compared to food security, as measured via second (Zhang, PhenoAge, GrimAge) and third (DunedinPoAm) generation epigenetic clocks. In particular, food insecurity remained significantly associated with accelerated Zhang (B = 0.09, SE = 0.03, p = 0.011) and GrimAge (B = 0.57, SE = 0.24, p = 0.022) in the fully adjusted models.

CONCLUSIONS: Food insecurity is associated with accelerated epigenetic aging among middle-aged and older adults in the United States. Food insecurity may contribute to DNA methylation alterations across the genome and biological age acceleration. These findings add to a growing understanding of the influence of socioeconomic status on the epigenome and health in aging.

Citation Key13961
PubMed ID38723585