October 21, 2014
Obesity is a widespread epidemic, even among the homeless.
While the popularized image of a homeless individual is one of skin and bones, a new study shows the reality is not so. One in three (32.3%) homeless individuals in the United States is obese, highlighting a hunger-obesity paradox.
The paradox is that hunger and obesity can exist in the same person. And although a person may be overweight or obese, he or she can lack proper nutrition.
Nutrition is a daily challenge for homeless people, as the foods they manage to get are often full of preservatives and high in sodium, fats and sugars. They may not have access to healthier options like fresh fruits and vegetables.
"It's the lowest socio-economic group who has the biggest obesity problem," said Paul Montgomery, one of the authors of the study published in the Journal of Urban Health. "No one looked at the homeless problem before. What we found was this group has a significant obesity problem that wasn't known."
The obesity rate in a sample of 5,632 homeless adults seen at the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program was similar to that seen in the general population.