February 11, 2013
Researchers at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital reported that HIV-infected children from homes where nutritious food was not always available (food insecurity) had a poorer outcome than those from homes where food was always secure. According to Dr. Jason Mendoza, assistant professor of pediatrics -- nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine and first author of the study, food insecurity causes families to eat less, skip meals, and redirect time and resources to obtaining food.
Participants in the study or their parents completed demographic and food insecurity questionnaires. The researchers reviewed participants' medical records to measure CD4 white blood cells, the type of cells that fight infection but are destroyed by the HIV virus, as a lower number of CD4 cells means a worse clinical outcome. Researchers also assessed HIV viral load. Participants were divided into two groups, food secure and food insecure, based on the results of the survey. Findings indicated that the food insecure group had lower CD4 counts and higher chances of incomplete viral suppression.
The researchers proposed several reasons why individuals who are food insecure have worse CD4 counts and higher chances of incomplete viral suppression. They plan to further investigate the relationship between food insecurity and HIV outcomes with a larger pediatric HIV-positive sample in the United States, to see if the relationship continues after six, 12, and 18 months. Also, Mendoza and colleagues are studying the pediatric HIV population at the Botswana-Baylor Children's Clinical Center of Excellence to examine correlations between food insecurity and HIV status.
The study, "Food Insecurity, CD4 Counts and Incomplete Viral Suppression Among HIV+ Patients From Texas Children's Hospital: A Pilot Study," was published in the journal AIDS and Behavior (2013; doi: 10.1007/s10461-013-0419-y).