Food insecurity and neurocognitive function among women living with or at risk for HIV in the United States

Judy Y. Tan, Lila A Sheira, Edward A. Frongillo, Adaora A Adimora, Phyllis C. Tien, Deborah Konkle-Parker, Elizabeth T. Golub, Daniel Merenstein, Susanna Levin, Mardge Cohen, Igho Ofotokun, Margaret A Fischl, Leah H. Rubin, Sheri D. Weiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Neurocognitive impairment (NCI) persists among women living with HIV. Food insecurity is also common among women and may be an important modifiable contributor of NCI. Objective: The goal of this study was to determine the association of food insecurity with neurocognitive function among women living with or without HIV. Methods: From 2013 to 2015, we analyzed data from a cross-sectional sample from the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS). Measures included food insecurity and a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery assessing executive function, processing speed, attention/working memory, learning, memory, fluency, and motor function. We conducted multivariable linear regressions to examine associations between food insecurity and domain-specific neurocognitive performance, adjusting for relevant sociodemographic, behavioral, and clinical factors. Results: Participants (n = 1,324) were predominantly HIV seropositive (68%), Black/African-American (68%) or Hispanic (16%), and low income (48% reported <$12,000/y), with a median age of 49.6 y (IQR = 43.1, 55.5). Approximately one-third (36%, n = 479) were food insecure. Food insecurity was associated with poorer executive function (b = -1.45, SE = 0.58, P ≤ 0.01) and processing speed (b = -1.30, SE = 0.59, P ≤ 0.05). HIV serostatus modified the association between food insecurity and learning, memory, and motor function (P values <0.05). Food insecurity was positively associated with learning among women living with HIV (b = 1.58, SE = 0.77, P ≤ 0.05) and negatively associated with motor function among HIV-negative women (b = -3.57, SE = 1.08, P ≤ 0.001). Conclusions: Food insecurity was associated with domain-specific neurocognitive function in women, and HIV serostatus modified associations. Food security may be an important point of intervention for ethnically diverse women with low socioeconomic status. Longitudinal studies are warranted to determine potential pathways by which food insecurity is associated with neurocognitive function among women living with or at risk for HIV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1280-1286
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV
  • food insecurity
  • neurocognitive function
  • neurocognitive impairment
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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