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Differences in neighborhood food environment may contribute to disparities in obesity
Date:3/19/2009

March 19, 2009 Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health examined the association of neighborhood food environments and "walkability" with body mass index (BMI) and obesity in New York City and found that a higher density of BMI-healthy food outlets is associated with a lower BMI and lower prevalence of obesity. BMI-unhealthy food stores and restaurants -- although far more abundant than healthy ones -- were not significantly associated with higher BMI or prevalence of obesity. The findings are published in the March 2009 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

Almost all of the more than 13,000 adult residents of New York City surveyed lived within a half-mile of an unhealthy food outlet, with an average density of 31 outlets per square kilometer, while 82% lived within a half-mile of a healthy food outlet, with an average density of four outlets per square kilometer. BMI-healthy food outlets are defined as supermarkets and fruit and vegetable markets, and BMI-unhealthy food outlets are fast food restaurants and convenience stores. The results indicate that a higher density of BMI-healthy food outlets was associated with a lower mean BMI, a lower prevalence of overweight adults, and a lower prevalence of obesity. BMI-unhealthy food stores and restaurants were far more abundant than healthy ones, but the density of these unhealthy food outlets was not significantly associated with BMI or with body size categories. The study indicates that retail outlets providing opportunities for healthier food purchases are associated with lower BMI.

"Given the recent proliferation of initiatives to promote access to supermarkets, farmers markets, and fruit and vegetable stands and to limit fast-food outlets, the study of the causal relationship between the food environment and diet or body size should be a priority for future research," says Andrew Rundle, DrPh, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School
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Contact: stephanie berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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