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Proximity to a Supermarket Not Tied to Diet Quality

Update Date: Mar 17, 2014 02:15 PM EDT

Researchers have previously reported that living close to a supermarket can help reduce obesity rates and improve diets. Despite these study's findings, a new study is reporting that people's proximity to a supermarket is not linked at all to diet quality and obesity rate.

"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 University of Washington School of Public Health's Center for Obesity Research according to Medical Xpress.

For this study, the research team examined data on nearly 1,400 people provided from the 2008-2009 Seattle Obesity Study. The information included individual home addresses and proximity to supermarkets throughout the Seattle-area. The primary supermarkets were categorized into low, medium and high cost based on a sample of 100 food products. The researchers collected information on fruit and vegetable consumption via telephone surveys. The researchers also examined the distances between a consumer's home address, his/her primary supermarket and his/her supermarket of choice.

The researchers discovered that distance to a supermarket did not influence diet quality. Instead, the researchers reported that people's diets were greatly affected by the type of supermarket they chose to go to. For example, people who went to Whole Foods tended to eat more fruits and vegetables in comparison to people who shopped at Safeway.

The team reported that only around one-third of the people shopped in the supermarket that was closest to them. People who tended to travel to a supermarket that was further away did so mostly due to costs. The team also found that supermarkets that were considered to be cheaper were tied to fewer fruits and vegetables consumption rates.

The study, "Access to Supermarkets and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption," was published in American Journal of Public Health.

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