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Cost, Rather Than Compass, May be Key to Healthy Eating

Efforts to alleviate urban food deserts has focused on the proximity of healthy food choices as a correlating factor for obesity. However, a new study concludes that price, rather than proximity, has a stronger correlation to rates of obesity.
June 20, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Sarah Kliff reports on a new study authored by the University of Washington's Adam Drewnowski, that may upend how communities across the country seek to increase access to health food in an effort to combat obesity.

Further muddying the waters around the issue of food deserts, as a growing number of studies raise questions about the connection between fresh food access and obesity, the study found that "proximity to the nearest supermarket had no impact on obesity rates."

Compiling the results of surveys conducted in Seattle, researchers found that, "What did matter, however, was price: The patrons of the lower-priced grocery store (like Safeway) tended to have a higher rate of obesity than those who shopped at the higher-priced grocery stores in the study (think Whole Foods). That relationship held true after adjusting for variables like education and income. It makes Drewnowski think that 'choice of primary food source was driven by price.'"

"Drewnowski's research suggests it might be worth putting more focus on that element of the intervention [reducing economic barriers to healthy food], and paying less attention to proximity," writes Kliff.

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Published on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 in The Washington Post
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