A recent Kansas State University study found that the availability of supermarkets -- rather than the lack of them --increased the risk of obesity for low-income women living in small cities. This suggests that policies to increase healthful eating behaviors might need to be tailored based on geographic location.
K-State researchers studied the availability of food stores for low-income women in Kansas to see whether there was a link to obesity. The findings showed that limited availability of grocery stores did not contribute to an increased risk of obesity in metropolitan or rural areas, but it was associated with an increased risk of obesity in micropolitan areas in Kansas, defined as cities with fewer than 40,000 people.
"This study was one of the first to look at supermarket availability across the urban-rural continuum, and the findings suggest that policies to increase healthful food availability may need to differ depending on urban influence," said David Dzewaltowski, K-State professor and department head of kinesiology.
Dzewaltowski and Paula Ford, assistant professor of public health sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso, published the study in the January issue of Obesity, a research journal. Ford led the project as a doctoral student at K-State.
Research has shown that a lack of nearby food stores that offer healthful items contributes to higher incidences of obesity for consumers. Studies also have shown that low-income residents have an improved quality of diet when larger grocery stores and supermarkets are available. That's because these stores often supply consumers with healthful foods at a lower cost compared to small grocery and convenience stores.
Dzewaltowski said most studies that have investigated links between food environments and obesity have relied upon census tracts or ZIP codes for analysis. However, this can lead to faulty results. The K-State study used a statewide, geographically referenced dataset of Kansans participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children from October 2004 to December 2006.
"Previous research assumes that most people shop within their own census tract or ZIP code," Ford said. "However, other studies have found that most people shop outside of their census tract. By examining the number of stores within a 1- to 3-mile radius of these women's homes, we were able to get a more accurate and realistic assessment of supermarket availability."
To be eligible for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program, a recipient must be a pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum woman with children younger than 5 years old and a household income less than 185 percent of the federally designated poverty level. The researchers' data included each woman's body mass index.
The study included only socioeconomically disadvantaged women because they are at greater risk of obesity than are wealthier women. They also are likely to be more dependent on nearby grocery stores and supermarkets because of limited transportation options and fewer economic resources, Ford said.
The researchers looked at the availability of food stores -- specifically convenience and grocery stores and supermarkets -- located within a radius of 1, 3 or 5 miles of the women's residences. The women's homes also were categorized as being in a rural, micropolitan or metropolitan area. The first item the researchers examined was the availability of these stores in the different areas.
The findings showed significant geographic disparities regarding the availability of supermarkets. However, the majority of the women lived within 1 mile of a small grocery store. Dzewaltowski said this is important because previous studies have indicated that rural areas are food deserts where low-income residents have to travel far to access healthful foods.
The number and types of stores available differed in the metropolitan, micropolitan and rural areas. Rural low-income women had 74 percent fewer supermarkets and 55 percent fewer small grocery stores available within a 1-mile radius as compared to women in metropolitan areas. Yet the number of convenience stores per 10,000 residents was highest in rural areas.
The researchers also looked at how the availability of different food stores contributed to area residents' obesity. They found that the availability and density of food stores was not associated with obesity in metropolitan and rural areas. However, contrary to previous studies, the findings showed that the presence of a supermarket is not protective against obesity for women in these areas. Women who resided in micropolitan areas in Kansas had an 18 percent increase in obesity risk when living within a 1-mile radius of a supermarket. The presence of small grocery and convenience stores also was associated with an increased risk of obesity.
Dzewaltowski said the findings indicate that the choice of supermarkets may be a more relevant issue than the availability of supermarkets. The findings also suggest that most of the low-income women reside within the urban cluster of the micropolitan areas and are likely to be exposed to multiple fast food restaurants and other high-caloric density eating opportunities, which are often absent in rural areas.
The researchers said policies that increase the accessibility of healthful foods at small grocery stores might be a promising strategy for reducing the higher prevalence of obesity in rural areas.
The research was supported by a grant from the Sunflower Foundation: Health Care for Kansans.
David Dzewaltowski | EurekAlert!
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
27.04.2017 | Life Sciences
27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences