The Association between Obesity and Urban Food Environments

Department of Community Health Sciences, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal Street, Suite 2301, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.
Journal of Urban Health (Impact Factor: 1.94). 05/2010; 87(5):771-81. DOI: 10.1007/s11524-010-9460-6
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Several studies have examined associations between the food retail environment and obesity, though virtually no work has been done in the urban South, where obesity rates are among the highest in the country. This study assessed associations between access to food retail outlets and obesity in New Orleans. Data on individual characteristics and body weight were collected by telephone interviews from a random sample of adults (N = 3,925) living in New Orleans in 2004-2005. The neighborhood of each individual was geo-mapped by creating a 2-km buffer around the center point of the census tract in which they lived. Food retailer counts were created by summing the total number of each food store type and fast food establishment within this 2-km neighborhood. Hierarchical linear models assessed associations between access to food retailers and obesity status. After adjusting for individual characteristics, each additional supermarket in a respondent's neighborhood was associated with a reduced odds for obesity (OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.88-0.99). Fast food restaurant (OR 1.01, 95% CI 1.00-1.02) and convenience store (OR 1.01, 95% CI 1.00-1.02) access were each predictive of greater obesity odds. An individual's access to food stores and fast food restaurants may play a part in determining weight status. Future studies with longitudinal and experimental designs are needed to test whether modifications in the food environment may assist in the prevention of obesity.

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    ABSTRACT: The prevalence of obesity is higher in racial/ethnic minority populations compared to non-Hispanic whites. Recently, a substantial body of literature has focused on understanding the role of the retail food environment in shaping racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in obesity risk. Compared to predominately white neighborhoods, retail food environments in minority neighborhoods have been found to be more “obesigenic” and offer fewer opportunities for healthy eating. Studies generally show that predominately African American and Native American neighborhoods have fewer chain supermarkets; more liquor/convenience stores; lower availability of healthy food options and lower-quality fresh produce than predominately white neighborhoods. However, results from studies examining food environments in Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods have been mixed. While several studies report an association between retail food environments, dietary intake, and obesity risk in children and adults, findings vary depending on the aspect of the food environment being studied, measures being used, target population considered, and geographic area where the study was conducted.
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