Dr. Erin Rasmussen, psychology professor, received the grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Rasmussen and her team working on the grant titled “Food Insecurity, Obesity, and Impulsivity” will look at the special conditions that might lead or influence impulse food choice.
Rasmussen described food insecure individuals as those who are concerned or uncertain about where their next meal might come from, and impulsivity as a pattern of choosing immediately available outcomes without thought to long-term consequences. She has studied impulsivity in both rats and humans and has found that both obese rats and obese humans are impulsive when it comes to food, compared to leaner controls.
Rasmussen and her team point to literature that shows that women who are food insecure are more likely to be obese. When a person is food insecure, they are more likely to purchase cheaper foods that are often higher in refined carbohydrates, sugar and fat, instead of fruits, vegetables and high protein foods. This type of diet can blunt their sensitivity to food reward.