SEATTLE, May 28 (UPI) — Researchers in Seattle question the outcomes of studies that used distance to supermarkets as the best predictor of good diets.
Adam Drewnowski, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington and his team combined a telephone survey, modeled on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System, with geo-coding techniques and spatial analysis to study where people bought food.
“Six out of seven people shopped for food outside their immediate neighborhood,” Drewnowski said in a statement. “The closest supermarket for most people was less than 1 mile away, but people chose the market that was more than 3 miles away.”
If a person has access to a car, driving further to save money on groceries is common. Therefore, physical proximity to a supermarket may not, by itself, assure a healthy diet.
“Money does matter,” Drewnowski said.
The researchers found Seattle is well-supplied with grocery stores, farmers markets and other vendors but did not see evidence of significant food deserts — areas with limited or no access to healthy foods. Public transportation is prevalent and accessible, so people have access to a supermarket or grocery store even if they do not have vehicle.
However, shoppers and shopping opportunities differed among the stores.
“Consumers who shop at most area supermarket chains have obesity rates at 25 percent and higher,” Drewnowski said. “However, the obesity rate was only 4 percent among Whole Foods and PCC Natural Markets, a certified organic grocery store.”
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