The way shops advertise different types of food can have a big impact on the quality of your diet , according to a new RAND Corporation research, a US nonprofit institution.
Studying people who live in areas considered to be food deserts, researchers found that more frequent shopping at convenience and neighborhood stores and being younger, male, without a college degree and receiving government food assistance were associated with greater intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars and discretionary fats. Being older, male and having a college degree were associated with eating more fruits and vegetables.
The study found that sociodemographic factors had the strongest association with the types of food people consumed. It surveyed 1,372 households in areas considered to be food deserts throughout 2011, gathering data about consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, discretionary fats, fruit and vegetables, food shopping patterns, and other dietary habits.
"Our findings suggest that interventions that focus on modifying the food retail environment by opening more stores that sell healthy food will have relatively little impact on reducing consumption of unhealthy food," said Christine Vaughan, lead author of the study and a behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Instead, strategies designed to modify the choices people make about food stand a better chance of reducing consumption of unhealthy foods."
Researchers suggest there is a need for targeted interventions to improve the dietary choices of individuals with sociodemographic characteristics that were associated with unhealthy food consumption. In addition, policymakers should consider strategies that have been shown in previous research to change behavior across shopping environments, such as imposing taxes on sugary soda products and limiting the display of unhealthy foods in all types of stores.
The RAND findings are from an ongoing project that is studying food consumption and food shopping in two low-income, predominately African American neighborhoods in Pittsburgh that long had been considered food deserts.
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