Research Article| Volume 34, ISSUE 4, P462-470, August 2021

Marginal Food Security Predicts Earlier Age at Menarche Among Girls From the 2009-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys

Published:April 07, 2021DOI:


      Study Objective

      This study analyzed the relationship between household food security and variation in age at menarche, as well as the connections between food insecurity, nutritional status, and allostatic load, among girls aged 12-15 years from the 2009-2014 United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).


      Data analysis included mean comparisons of age at menarche among household food security groups (high, marginal, low, and very low) as well as categorical variables known to associate with age at menarche (ethnicity, poverty status, body mass index [BMI], allostatic load, and milk consumption). χ2 Analyses were used to test the associations between household food security and additional categorical variables. Univariate and multivariate regression models were used to test the relationship between variation in age at menarche and household food security, ethnicity, BMI, and allostatic load categories while controlling for age.


      Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic/Mexican American girls had earlier mean ages at menarche, higher mean BMIs, and disproportionately experienced household food insecurity when compared to non-Hispanic White-identifying girls. In the univariate analyses, marginal household food security, Hispanic/Mexican American and Black ethnicities, overweight and obese BMI categories, and marginal-high allostatic load were each associated with lower age at menarche compared to reference categories. These associations were maintained in the multivariate analysis, although only Hispanic/Mexican American ethnicity predicted earlier menarche when compared to that of non-Hispanic White girls.


      Marginal household food security, particularly for girls who identified as non-White, predicted earlier age at menarche independent of nutritional status and allostatic load. At the same time, having more energetic resources (ie, higher BMI) also significantly predicted earlier menarche.

      Key Words

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