Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Nutrition, Under the Supervision of Professor Julie A. Albrecht. Lincoln, Nebraska: August 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Melissa A. Masters


Youth obesity is an ongoing problem in the United States. Obese children and adolescents are likely to be obese as adults and have an increased risk of developing chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, earlier in life. The multifactorial nature of obesity continues to challenge researchers and health professionals to determine methods for preventing and reducing childhood obesity. Research has suggested that obesity is a normal response to an “obesigenic” environment. Emerging as one of the most influential environments in obesity and behavior development is the home food environment. However, little is understood about the role of the home food environment in obesity and disease development in youth. The purpose of this research was to examine factors that influence the home food environment as well as the relationship between the home food environment and dietary intake, obesity, and disease development in a nationally representative sample of U.S. youth aged 6-19 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Race-ethnicity and poverty income ratio (PIR) were found to influence home food availability, family meal patterns, and family food expenditures, three aspects of the home food environment. Race-ethnicity, PIR, and home food availability appeared to influence dietary consumption in youth. However, home food availability did not appear to be related to overweight or obesity in youth. Overweight and obesity in children and adolescents was associated with adverse lipid concentrations. The home food environment is complex but may serve as a modifiable area for nutrition educators to influence dietary intake in youth. Racial and socioeconomic disparities in home food environments should be addressed in the development of effective public policy and nutrition education development. Although the home food environment was not found to be related to obesity in youth, research should continue assessing environmental factors of obesity development as obesity is related to disease development earlier in life.

Advisor: Julie A. Albrecht