This article was originally published here
Soc Sci Med. 2021 Nov 6:114542. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114542. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: Research examining the influence of neighborhood healthy food environment on diet has been mostly cross-sectional and has lacked robust characterization of the food environment. We examined longitudinal associations between features of the local food environment and healthy diet, and whether associations were modified by race/ethnicity.
METHODS: Data on 3634 adults aged 45-84 followed for 10 years were obtained from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Diet quality was assessed using the Alternative Healthy Eating Index at Exam 1 (2000-2002) and Exam 5 (2010-2012). We assessed four measures of the local food environment using survey-based measures (e.g. perceptions of healthier food availability) and geographic information system (GIS)-based measures (e.g. distance to and density of healthier food stores) at Exam 1 and Exam 5. Random effects models adjusted for age, sex, education, moving status, per capita adjusted income, and neighborhood socioeconomic status, and used interaction terms to assess effect measure modification by race/ethnicity.
RESULTS: Net of confounders, one standard z-score higher average composite local food environment was associated with higher average AHEI diet score (β=1.39, 95% CI: 1.05, 1.73) over the follow-up period from Exam 1 to 5. This pattern of association was consistent across both GIS-based and survey-based measures of local food environment and was more pronounced among minoritized racial/ethnic groups. There was no association between changes in neighborhood environment and change in AHEI score, or effect measure modification by race/ethnicity.
CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that neighborhood-level food environment is associated with better diet quality, especially among racially/ethnically minoritized populations.