The Local Food Environment and Obesity: Evidence from Three Cities
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OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to identify the association between the food environment and obesity. METHODS: BMI and waist circumference (WC) were measured in 8,076 participants from three cities. The number of fast-food restaurants, full-service restaurants, bars/pubs, markets, and liquor stores within 500 m of each participant was documented. The association between the food environment (ratio of fast-food to full-service restaurants, ratio of bars/pubs to liquor stores, and presence of markets) with obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2 ) and abdominal obesity (WC ≥ 102 cm for males or WC ≥ 88 cm for females) was investigated, adjusted for age, sex, education level, neighborhood deprivation, neighborhood type, and total hours per week of walking and taking into account city-level clustering. RESULTS: The ratios of fast-food to full-service restaurants and of bars/pubs to liquor stores were positively associated with obesity (OR = 1.05 [CI: 1.02-1.09] and OR = 1.08 [CI: 1.04-1.13], respectively). The ratio of bars/pubs to liquor stores was positively associated with abdominal obesity (OR = 1.10 [CI: 1.05-1.14]). There was no association between markets and either obesity or abdominal obesity. CONCLUSIONS: Features of the food environment have varying associations with obesity. These features have an additive effect, and future studies should not focus on only one feature in isolation.