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Economic Contextual Factors, Food Consumption and Obesity among U.S. Adolescents

Powell LM, Han E and Chaloupka FJ. The Journal of Nutrition, 140(6): 1175-1180, 2010. 


Adolescents have poor dietary behaviors and high overweight prevalence. Economic contextual factors such as food prices and food store and restaurant availability are hypothesized and increasingly being explored empirically as contributors to the obesity epidemic. Evidence showed that healthful compared with less healthful foods increasingly cost more and that fast food restaurants are increasingly available. In addition, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities have been documented in access to food outlets, particularly chain supermarkets, and such disparities have been shown to be increasing recently. Empirical evidence based on nationally representative U.S. adolescent data revealed that lower fruit and vegetable prices, higher fast food prices, and greater supermarket availability were related to higher fruit and vegetable consumption and lower BMI, in particular for BMI among teens who are overweight or at risk for overweight and who are low- to middle-socioeconomic status. The availability of fast food restaurants was not associated with youth BMI.

Overall, this research implies that pricing interventions of taxes on energy-dense foods such as fast food and/or subsidies to healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables and policy efforts to improve access to supermarkets may help to improve adolescent weight outcomes.

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