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Access to newer supermarkets offering fresh food in some of New York City’s poorest neighborhoods was linked to a 1% drop in obesity among public school students living nearby, a new study shows. The modernized markets were also tied to reductions of between 4% and 10% in the average BMI-z score for students, a measure of body weight based on height for each age group by gender.
Although the differences were small, the researchers say that the results, if translated into policy change, could make a meaningful difference if applied to the more than 14 million (19%) American children estimated to be overweight, with the highest frequency among black and Hispanic children.
To significantly lower the death rate from related diseases, researchers say that obesity in children should decrease at least three times more than what was observed in the study. A broad health policy approach that also included nutritious food subsidies, junk food marketing restrictions and warning labels could potentially make the difference.
Led by researchers at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the new study showed that within a year of opening newly renovated or new supermarkets, obesity rates dropped from 24.3% to 23.3% among 22,712 school-age children living within half a mile out of eight. such stores. This reduction was compared with no change in obesity rates (stable at 23.3%) among 86,744 students living further away from one of the publicly supported stores with more space for fresh produce and perishable foods. City support has been available since 2009 to reduce the cost of renovating or opening supermarkets in the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods.
“Our study highlights that one in four New York City public school children selected, predominantly Hispanic and black, is obese, a worrying sign of the depth of the problem that children’s health faces in the city,” says the study’s lead. investigator and epidemiologist Pasquale Rummo, Ph.D., MPH. Obesity in children is strongly associated with long-term risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, Rummo says.
Among the study’s other key findings was that the risk score for obesity decreased more among students in kindergarten to 8th grade than among students in 9th to 12th grade.
Rummo, an assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health, attributes this to the fact that teens have more freedom to travel outside their local neighborhoods than younger children. Teenagers traditionally also have more money to spend on snacks at bodegas or fast food restaurants.
“These results, however small, show that supermarket supplements can play an effective role in solving the complex problem of obesity among children in America, especially among our most vulnerable Hispanic and black children,” says senior researcher Brian Elbel, Ph.D. D. ., MPH. Elbel is a professor in the Departments of Public Health and Medicine at NYU Langone.
Published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics online February xx, the new study is the largest study to date of the effects of New York City’s supermarket developmental supplements on childhood obesity. Previous research involved single-storey studies that produced mixed results, which the researchers hoped the current study would help solve. Other studies also focused on the effect of obesity supplements in adults, while the new study is the first to focus on children and their weight.
For the study, researchers identified at least one supermarket in each of the city’s boroughs that participated from 2009 to 2016 in New York City’s Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program. As part of FRESH, the city offered subsidies and tax breaks to renovate or build new nearly two dozen supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods with high unemployment to improve local access to healthy foods.
Researchers then analyzed seven-year health records in public schools for those students in kindergarten through high school who lived within a mile or more of the FRESH supermarkets. Body weight measurements were then compared for a year before and for up to a year after the supermarket was remodeled or newly built.
The research team already plans to look at the health effects of other supermarket-based incentives, such as reduced fruit and vegetable prices, and whether these supplements increase their consumption and affect obesity. There is also a need for further research, says Elbel, of what effects, if any, modern supermarkets have on what food students actually buy and consume, data that were not available for the latest analysis.
Elbel stresses that all policy efforts, including FRESH grants, designed to improve public health, must be evaluated for their long-term impact.
How far school children live from junk food sources linked to obesity More information: Association Between a Policy to Subsidize Supermarkets, JAMA Pediatrics (2022). DOI: 10.1001 / jamapediatrics.2022.1153
Quote: ‘New and Improved’ Supermarkets Trim Obesity in Children in NYC (2022, May 9) Retrieved May 10, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-05-supermarkets-trim-childhood-obesity-nyc .html
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