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Investigating the importance of the local food environment for fruit and vegetable intake in older men and women in 20 UK towns: A cross-sectional analysis of two national cohorts using novel methods

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Sheena Ramsay



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2017 The Author(s). Background: Local neighbourhood environments can influence dietary behavior. There is limited evidence focused on older people who are likely to have greater dependence on local areas and may suffer functional limitations that amplify any neighbourhood impact. Methods: Using multi-level ordinal regression analysis we investigated the association between multiple dimensions of neighbourhood food environments (captured by fine-detail, foot-based environmental audits and secondary data) and self-reported frequency of fruit and vegetable intake. The study was a cross-sectional analysis nested within two nationally representative cohorts in the UK: the British Regional Heart Study and the British Women's Heart and Health Study. Main exposures of interest were density of food retail outlets selling fruits and vegetables, the density of fast food outlets and a novel measure of diversity of the food retail environment. Results: A total of 1124 men and 883 women, aged 69 - 92 years, living in 20 British towns were included in the analysis. There was strong evidence of an association between area income deprivation and fruit and vegetable consumption, with study members in the most deprived areas estimated to have 27% (95% CI: 7, 42) lower odds of being in a higher fruit and vegetable consumption category relative to those in the least deprived areas. We found no consistent evidence for an association between fruit and vegetable consumption and a range of other food environment domains, including density of shops selling fruits and vegetables, density of premises selling fast food, the area food retail diversity, area walkability, transport accessibility, or the local food marketing environment. For example, individuals living in areas with greatest fruit and vegetable outlet density had 2% (95% CI: -22, 21) lower odds of being in a higher fruit and vegetable consumption category relative to those in areas with no shops. Conclusions: Although small effect sizes in environment-diet relationships cannot be discounted, this study suggests that older people are less influenced by physical characteristics of neighbourhood food environments than is suggested in the literature. The association between area income deprivation and diet may be capturing an important social aspect of neighbourhoods that influence food intake in older adults and warrants further research.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hawkesworth S, Silverwood RJ, Armstrong B, Pliakas T, Nanchahal K, Sartini C, Amuzu A, Wannamethee G, Atkins J, Ramsay SE, Casas JP, Morris RW, Whincup PH, Lock K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity

Year: 2017

Volume: 14

Online publication date: 18/09/2017

Acceptance date: 03/09/2017

Date deposited: 17/10/2017

ISSN (electronic): 1479-5868

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd


DOI: 10.1186/s12966-017-0581-0


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