Neighborhood Food Environment, Diet, and Obesity Among Los Angeles County Adults, 2011

Published in: Preventing Chronic Disease, v. 12, no. 150078, Sep. 2015, p. E143

Posted on RAND.org on November 19, 2015

by Nelly Josefina Mejia Gonzalez, Amy S. Lightstone, Ricardo Basurto-Davila, Douglas M. Morales, Roland Sturm

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INTRODUCTION: The objective of this study was to examine whether an association exists between the number and type of food outlets in a neighborhood and dietary intake and body mass index (BMI) among adults in Los Angeles County. We also assessed whether this association depends on the geographic size of the food environment. METHODS: We analyzed data from the 2011 Los Angeles County Health Survey. We created buffers (from 0.25 to 3.0 miles in radius) centered in respondents' residential addresses and counted the number of food outlets by type in each buffer. Dependent variables were weekly intake of fruits and vegetables, sugar-sweetened beverages, and fast food; BMI; and being overweight (BMI ≥25.0 kg/m2) or obese (BMI ≥30.0 kg/m2). Explanatory variables were the number of outlets classified as fast-food outlets, convenience stores, small food stores, grocery stores, and supermarkets. Regressions were estimated for all sets of explanatory variables and buffer size combinations (150 total effects). RESULTS: Only 2 of 150 effects were significant after being adjusted for multiple comparisons. The number of fast-food restaurants in nonwalkable areas (in a 3.0-mile radius) was positively associated with fast-food consumption, and the number of convenience stores in a walkable distance (in a 0.25-mile radius) was negatively associated with obesity. DISCUSSION: Little evidence was found for associations between proximity of respondents' homes to food outlets and dietary intake or BMI among adults in Los Angeles County. A possible explanation for the null finding is that shopping patterns are weakly related to neighborhoods in Los Angeles County because of motorized transportation.

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