Food Desert Research

Lorraine R. Reitzel, Seann D. Regan, Nga Nguyen, Ellen K. Cromley, Larkin L. Strong, David W. Wetter, and Lorna H. McNeill. (2013). “Density and Proximity of Fast Food Restaurants and Body Mass Index Among African Americans.” American Journal of Public Health.

Objectives. The purpose of this study was to address current gaps in the literature by examining the associations of fast food restaurant (FFR) density around the home and FFR proximity to the home, respectively, with body mass index (BMI) among a large sample of African American adults from Houston, Texas.

Methods. We used generalized linear models with generalized estimating equations to examine associations of FFR density at 0.5-, 1-, 2-, and 5-mile road network buffers around the home with BMI and associations of the closest FFR to the home with BMI. All models were adjusted for a range of individual-level covariates and neighborhood socioeconomic status. We additionally investigated the moderating effects of household income on these relations. Data were collected from December 2008 to July 2009.

Results. FFR density was not associated with BMI in the main analyses. However, FFR density at 0.5, 1, and  2 miles was positively associated with BMI among participants with lower incomes (P ≤ .025). Closer FFR proximity was associated with higher BMI among all participants (P < .001), with stronger associations emerging among those of lower income (P < .013) relative to higher income (P < .014).

Conclusions. Additional research with more diverse African American samples is needed, but results supported the potential for the fast food environment to affect BMI among African Americans, particularly among those of lower economic means. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print May 16, 2013: e1–e7. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.301140)

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