Neighborhood Food Outlets, Diet, and Obesity Among California Adults, 2007 and 2009

Published in: Preventing Chronic Disease, v. 10, no. 120123, Mar. 2013, p. 1-11

Posted on on March 01, 2013

by Aiko Hattori, Ruopeng An, Roland Sturm

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Research Question

  1. Are the number and type of neighborhood food outlets associated with dietary intake and body mass index?

INTRODUCTION: Varying neighborhood definitions may affect research on the association between food environments and diet and weight status. The objective of this study was to examine the association between number and type of neighborhood food outlets and dietary intake and body mass index (BMI) measures among California adults according to the geographic size of a neighborhood or food environment. METHODS: We analyzed data from 97,678 respondents aged 18 years or older from the 2007 and 2009 California Health Interview Survey through multivariable regression models. Outcome variables were BMI, weight status of a BMI of 25.0 or more and a BMI of 30.0 or more, and the number of times per week the following were consumed: fruits, vegetables, sugar-sweetened soft drinks, fried potatoes, and fast food. Explanatory variables were the number of fast-food restaurants, full-service restaurants, convenience stores, small food stores, grocery stores, and large supermarkets within varying distances (0.25 to 3.0 miles) from the survey respondent's residence. We adopted as a measure of walking distance a Euclidean distance within 1 mile. Control variables included sociodemographic and economic characteristics of respondents and neighborhoods. RESULTS: Food outlets within walking distance (≤1.0 mile) were not strongly associated with dietary intake, BMI, or probabilities of a BMI of 25.0 or more or a BMI of 30.0 or more. We found significant associations between fast-food outlets and dietary intake and between supermarkets and BMI and probabilities of a BMI of 25.0 or more and a BMI of 30.0 or more for food environments beyond walking distance (>1.0 mile). CONCLUSION: We found no strong evidence that food outlets near homes are associated with dietary intake or BMI. We replicated some associations reported previously but only for areas that are larger than what typically is considered a neighborhood. A likely reason for the null finding is that shopping patterns are weakly related, if at all, to neighborhoods in the United States because of access to motorized transportation.

Key Findings

  • The presence of food outlets near home is not associated with dietary intake or BMI.
  • In general, shopping patterns are weakly related, if at all, to neighborhoods, given access to cars.

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