Research Activities, March 2014
Neighborhood food outlets not linked to dietary intake or obesity
The relationship between neighborhood food environments and obesity occupies a central role in policy debates, with some suggesting that neighborhood "food deserts," where access to healthful and affordable food is limited, may be linked to obesity. Yet the evidence is not clear on whether promoting or discouraging a particular type of food outlet is an effective approach to promote healthful dietary behaviors and healthy weight.
The study authors examined the association between number and type of neighborhood food outlets and dietary intake and body mass index (BMI) measures among California adults. Their analysis of data from 97,678 California adults found that food outlets within walking distance (less than 1 mile) were not strongly associated with dietary intake, BMI, or probabilities of a BMI of 25.0 (overweight) or a BMI of 30.0 or more (obese).
More fast food restaurants within 3.0 miles of a resident's home predicted increased frequency of consuming fried potatoes, soft drinks, and fast food, decreased frequency of consuming vegetables, and a greater probability of a BMI of 25.0 or more. By contrast, the number of supermarkets within 3 miles was largely not associated with dietary intake, whereas more supermarkets within 1.0, 1.5, and 3.0 mile buffers predicted lower BMI. A likely reason for the null finding is that shopping patterns are weakly related, if at all, to neighborhoods in California because of access to motorized transportation. This study was supported in part by AHRQ (T32 HS00046).
See "Neighborhood food outlets, diet, and obesity among California adults, 2007 and 2009," by Aiko Hattori, Ph.D., Ruopeng An, M.P.P., and Roland Sturm, Ph.D. in the March 14, 2013, Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy 10, published online.