Longitudinal Associations Between Observed and Perceived Neighborhood Food Availability and Body Mass Index in a Multiethnic Urban Sample

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Abstract

Introduction. Blacks, Hispanics, and women of lower socioeconomic status tend to have a higher risk of obesity. Numerous studies over the past decade examined the role of the neighborhood food environment in body weight. However, few were longitudinal. Purpose. This longitudinal study examined whether multiple measures of neighborhood food availability were associated with body mass index (BMI) in a predominately Black and Hispanic adult sample living in low- to moderate-income urban neighborhoods. Method. This longitudinal study used two waves of data (2002, 2008), including interviewer-measured height and weight, from a community survey of adults (n = 219). In both 2002 and 2008, multiple measures characterized neighborhood food availability: GIS-derived availability of retail food outlets (large grocery store, small grocery store, convenience store, liquor stores), observed fruit and vegetable availability (count of stores selling 10 or more fresh fruit or vegetable varieties), and perceived fruit and vegetable access. Random intercept models estimated multivariable associations, controlling for individual-level demographics and neighborhood median household income. Results. Small grocery store availability was associated with 1.22-unit increase in BMI (p = .047), while each unit increase in perceived fruit and vegetable access was associated with a 0.69-unit decrease in BMI (p = .055). BMI was not associated with large grocery store, convenience store, or liquor store availability, or with observed fruit and vegetable availability. Conclusions. Findings suggest that improving the neighborhood food environment, particularly at small grocery stores, may help urban residents living in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods achieve healthier body weights over time.

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