Distance to supermarket makes no difference to diet quality, study says

March 17, 2014 by Jeff Hodson
UW researchers found that shoppers at Whole Foods stores ate more fruits and vegetables than Safeway shoppers.

(Medical Xpress)—Public health experts have assumed that living close to a supermarket is linked to a better diet and lower obesity. The closer you lived to one, the theory went, the more likely you were to eat more fruits and vegetables.

But a new study, conducted in Seattle and led by researchers in the University of Washington School of Public Health, finds that distance from a supermarket doesn't matter when it comes to diet quality. What counts most is exactly where a person decides to shop.

"Clearly, people tend to bypass a multitude of supermarkets, grocery and ethnic stores near their homes to get to their primary supermarket of choice," said lead author Anju Aggarwal, a research associate at UW's Center for Obesity Research.

Choices on where people shopped were likely based on individual factors ranging from economic necessity to lifestyle, culture and attitudes about healthy foods, she added.

The American Journal of Public Health published the study March 13.

The study was based on data from nearly 1,400 Seattle-area supermarket shoppers and the 2008-2009 Seattle Obesity Study. Using telephone surveys and King County government records, researchers in the UW Urban Form Lab geocoded locations of all food sources in King County, including respondents' nearest and primary supermarkets. Primary supermarkets of choice were categorized by price (low, medium and high) based on the cost of a basket of 100 goods.

Diet differed according to preferred . The researchers also found that shoppers at lower-cost supermarkets ate significantly fewer – nearly a serving less per day – than those who shopped at higher-cost supermarkets.

"Fruit and vegetable consumption was higher when people shopped at Whole Foods than when they shopped at a Safeway," said co-author Adam Drewnowski, professor of epidemiology and director of the UW's Center for Public Health Nutrition.

Drewnowski added that the debate over access to healthy foods needs to be shifted from physical proximity to ensuring people in lower-income groups have greater purchasing power. Whether a higher minimum wage would achieve that is one possible question to explore, he said.

Explore further: Discount supermarkets tied to rising obesity rates

More information: Anju Aggarwal, Andrea J. Cook, Junfeng Jiao, Rebecca A. Seguin, Anne Vernez Moudon, Philip M. Hurvitz, and Adam Drewnowski. (2014). "Access to Supermarkets and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption." American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301763

Related Stories

Discount supermarkets tied to rising obesity rates

June 19, 2012
(HealthDay) -- People who shop at lower-cost supermarkets are more likely to be obese than those who shop at higher-priced stores, according to a new study.

Healthy food rarely convenient for urban minorities

October 16, 2013
Despite the prevalence of corner and convenience stores in urban neighborhoods, many residents have to travel farther to find supermarkets that offer a wide variety of healthful food choices, finds a new study in the American ...

Better access to healthy foods is not enough to tackle obesity

February 3, 2014
Government initiatives to improve access to healthy foods may have a limited impact on obesity in the US, according to new research by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Penn State University.

Your supermarket may affect your weight

April 4, 2012
Your supermarket may affect your weight, according to a report published Apr. 4 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Recommended for you

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

freethinking
not rated yet Mar 17, 2014
Higher purchasing power under the Democrats.... Ha! They are the ones responsible for Lower purchasing power, Higher Medical insurance premiums, Higher Unemployment....

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.