Neighborhood availability of energy-dense snack foods linked to residents' weight status

Neighborhood availability of energy-dense snack foods linked to residents’ weight status
Healthscaping – Issue 4
September 1, 2009

Those who fault cravings and brightly-colored packaging for their decision to purchase a chocolate bar or a salty bag of potato chips may have a new decision-influencing culprit to blame, the amount of shelf-space their neighborhood stores dedicate to displaying calorie-dense items.

Results of a recent study by the Prevention Research Center (PRC) at Tulane University indicate that after controlling for individual and household-level characteristics, the amount of shelf-space dedicated to energy-dense foods within 1 kilometer of a person's residence is positively associated with body mass index (BMI). Specifically, an additional 100 meters of shelf-space provided for energy-dense snacks is associated with an increase in 0.1 BMI units.

Some previous public health research supports the notion that access to supermarkets is inversely associated with BMI and positively associated with quality of diet. On the contrary, access to convenience stores has been shown to be positively associated with BMI.

Diego Rose, Paul Hutchinson, and colleagues at Tulane’s PRC wanted to expand on this understanding by incorporating research in the field of marketing, which shows that the shelf space devoted to a given product influences the amount that consumers purchase.

Part of a larger study on the impact of neighborhood alcohol and food environments on behaviors and health outcomes, Tulane University PRC's data collection ran from October 2004 to August 2005 and focused on urban census tracts in Southeastern Louisiana. A total of 103 urban tracts were randomly selected for sampling. Each tract's retail outlets that sold food were mapped and in-store surveys and telephone surveys of residents in the study tracts were conducted.

Stores were grouped by type, such as supermarkets, small food stores, or convenience stores. Researchers conducted in-store surveys where they recorded total floor space and length of shelf space for both fresh and canned fruits and vegetables and four categories of snack foods – candies, salty snacks, cookies and pasties, and sodas. Households from the study area that were listed in public directories were randomly selected for telephone surveys, and an adult resident in each household was asked to report their weight, height, whether they had a car, and other basic demographic information.

Researchers found households in the study area had significantly greater access to snack food items than fruits and vegetables. Specifically, residents could find about twice as much candy as vegetables and four times as much candy as fruits.

While modest, there was a significant association between neighborhood availability of energy-dense snack foods within 1 kilometer and BMI. Significant associations between shelf space and BMI were also found when snacks were studied by specific category – salty snacks, candies and soda.

No significant relationship between availability of fruits and vegetables and BMI was found. This may be due to the fact that fruits and vegetables are more likely to be planned purchases than energy-dense snack foods, which people often purchase on impulse.

Consistent with prior research, this study shows that the availability of energy-dense foods is associated with BMI, lending support for policy interventions that seek to reduce the excess availability of such foods.

Click here to download a copy of “Neighborhood food environments and Body Mass Index: the importance of in-store contents.”

Click here to sign up for “Healthscaping.”

Other Related Posts

To-track-impact-Tulane-PRC-relaunches-toolkits-online

To track impact, Tulane PRC relaunches toolkits online

Education & Engagement

Published: February 07, 2018

Acquiring information is a first step to helping communities become healthier, and the Tulane Prevention Research Center is relaunching three of its most recent toolkit publications to re-invigorate interest and track the impact these materials may have with the community. Since its inception in 1998, the Tulane PRC has created an excellent library of educational and scientific materials – from reports to research briefs to articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals – and has posted them…

Read More

Spring-seminars-focus-on-health-racism-communication

Spring seminars focus on health, racism, communication

Education & Engagement

Published: February 07, 2018

SAVE THE DATES! Three public seminars at Tulane University’s downtown campus this spring will feature local and national health leaders and their work related to addressing health disparities and systemic racism by focusing on a variety of communication strategies. For 10 years, the Tulane Prevention Research Center and the Tulane Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health have partnered to host a seminar series on communication skills meant to enhance traditional public health education…

Read More

Public-health-innovations-take-stage-at-upcoming-trainings

Public health innovations take stage at upcoming trainings

Education & Engagement

Published: February 07, 2018

SAVE THE DATES! Please join the Tulane Prevention Research Center for two seminars in the Spring 2018 Innovations in Public Health Research and Practice Series: “Food Choices and the Environment: The Carbon Footprint of Our Diets” Thursday, March 8, 2018 from 12-1:30 p.m., Room 1206, 12th Floor, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal Street, New Orleans LA 70112 Featuring: Diego Rose, PhD, MPH, Director of the Nutrition & Food Security Program,…

Read More

Studying-nutrition-gives-students-at-Tulane-PRC-skills-in-community-programs

Studying nutrition gives students at Tulane PRC skills in community programs

Education & Engagement

Published: February 07, 2018

A class of Tulane dietetic interns who are training to be Registered Dietitians, did a one-week rotation with the Tulane Prevention Research Center in fall 2017. While at the Tulane PRC, the 20 students created five single nutrition education workshops. The students not only designed the didactic information, activities and evaluation of the workshops but facilitated the workshops as well. The information in the workshops had to be evidence-based, but also relevant, engaging and interactive.…

Read More

Message-from-the-Director

Message from the Director

Education & Engagement

Published: February 06, 2018

It's the beginning of the new year 2018, and what an exciting year it promises to be. The staff and faculty at the Tulane PRC are looking forward to a lot of interaction with our community organizations, partners and associates. Being well into the fourth year of our five-year funding cycle, we have a lot of work to do, and with the community's help, it will get done. But I think it is important to…

Read More

New-Orleans-launches-survey-to-identify-citys-pressing-health-issues

New Orleans launches survey to identify city's pressing health issues

Education & Engagement

Published: February 02, 2018

Every five years, the New Orleans Health Department and community partners conduct a city-wide Community Health Assessment in order to identify the most pressing health issues facing New Orleans residents and opportunities for health improvement. This year a Community Health Survey is one of the many ways that community voice is being incorporated into the assessment process. The goal of the survey is to align the city government's priorities with that of its residents for…

Read More

Legislative-Updates

Legislative Updates

Education & Engagement

Published: February 02, 2018

New Orleans food policy report released, feedback requested. The New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee (FPAC) recently released it's 2018 Policy Recommendations. These recommendations stem from the recent report, Policy Matters: Assessing the Policy Gap and Opportunities in the New Orleans Food System and are aimed at increasing the equity, opportunity and collaboration in the New Orleans Food System. FPAC also completed its three-year strategic plan which focuses on the three working groups – food…

Read More

Help-Tulane-PRC-take-1-Billion-Steps

Help Tulane PRC take 1 Billion Steps!

Education & Engagement

Published: February 02, 2018

Walking is one of the easiest ways to improve your health – and it's more fun if we do it together. That's why the Tulane Prevention Research Center is participating in the American Public Health Association’s 1 Billion Steps Challenge. As part of this challenge, we've created "Team Tulane PRC" and we'd love for others to join us. To join, go to https://stridekick.com/challenges/107816/tulane-prc When you join, you'll be able to track how many steps you…

Read More

Staff-Spotlight

Staff Spotlight

Education & Engagement

Published: February 01, 2018

Naomi King Englar is the communications and dissemination coordinator for the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC). She is responsible for all the center's communications campaigns, including educational materials, electronic newsletters, social media, website, and traditional publications. Additionally, Naomi coordinates the center's Health Promotion Practicum Program, which places public health graduate students in internships with the PRC's community partners. She also coordinates the social marketing components of the PRC’s core research project Movin’ for LIFE (Lasting…

Read More

Active-Steps-Changing-Up-Exercise-Routines-for-Better-Bone-Health

Active Steps: Changing Up Exercise Routines for Better Bone Health

Education & Engagement

Published: February 01, 2018

Physical activity is a key component of improved health and is associated with a decreased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. Not surprisingly, exercise also strengthens muscles, can improve balance, and is linked to better mental health.(1) With the many positive aspects of remaining physically fit, it is also important to remember to diversify one's exercise routine. Sure, yoga or biking are great for health and can be…

Read More

canary