Supermarket access key ingredient in obesity programs, study finds

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 12th May 2014
Supermarket access appears to be crucial in children's obesity programs, a study has found

Living close to a supermarket appears to be a key factor in the success of interventions to help obese children eat better and improve their weight, according to a study from Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts.

The study, which was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on 3 May 2014, found that children who lived closer to supermarkets were able to increase their fruit and vegetable intake more than those living far away.

The impact of ‘food deserts’ on weight loss

Urban neighborhoods and rural towns without access to fresh, healthy and affordable food are known as ‘food deserts’. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, food deserts sometimes have only fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.

Few studies had looked at whether living farther from a large supermarket affects the success of interventions to improve eating habits and reduce weight.

Study method

The Boston Children’s Hospital researchers analysed data from a randomised, controlled trial that took place in 14 pediatric practices in Massachusetts. The trial compared two interventions to help obese children ages 6-12 years old eat healthier foods and improve their weight. The first intervention included electronic decision support to help clinicians manage obese patients, while the second intervention included decision support and parent health coaching. There was also a control group that received usual care.

Results showed that children in the intervention groups living closer to a supermarket were able to increase their fruit and vegetable intake more than those living farther away. Those living farther away from a supermarket in the intervention groups had a larger increase in body mass index as well. Distance from a supermarket did not affect the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed.

“As our nation strives to improve the health of our children, we must look to children’s neighborhoods and provide easier, healthier choices for families,” said Lauren G. Fiechtner, MD, lead author of the study, fellow in the Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition and Health Services at Boston Children’s Hospital and research fellow in the Division of General Academic Pediatrics, Mass General Hospital for Children.

This study was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1R18AE000026). Dr. Fiechtner was funded by a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development training grant to the Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Boston Children’s Hospital (T32 DK 007747).