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Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Feb;38(2):306-14. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2013.97. Epub 2013 May 27.

Food environment and socioeconomic status influence obesity rates in Seattle and in Paris.

Author information

  • 1Center for Public Health Nutrition, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.
  • 2Urban Form Lab, College of Built Environments, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.
  • 3School of Architecture, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA.
  • 41] UMR Inserm U557; Inra U1125; Cnam; University Paris 13-Sorbonne Paris Cité, CRNH Ile-de-France, Bobigny, France [2] Department of Geography, Lab-Urba, Urbanism Institute of Paris, University Paris-Est, Paris, France.
  • 51] Inserm, U707, Paris, France [2] Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, UMR-S 707, Paris, France.



To compare the associations between food environment at the individual level, socioeconomic status (SES) and obesity rates in two cities: Seattle and Paris.


Analyses of the SOS (Seattle Obesity Study) were based on a representative sample of 1340 adults in metropolitan Seattle and King County. The RECORD (Residential Environment and Coronary Heart Disease) cohort analyses were based on 7131 adults in central Paris and suburbs. Data on sociodemographics, health and weight were obtained from a telephone survey (SOS) and from in-person interviews (RECORD). Both studies collected data on and geocoded home addresses and food shopping locations. Both studies calculated GIS (Geographic Information System) network distances between home and the supermarket that study respondents listed as their primary food source. Supermarkets were further stratified into three categories by price. Modified Poisson regression models were used to test the associations among food environment variables, SES and obesity.


Physical distance to supermarkets was unrelated to obesity risk. By contrast, lower education and incomes, lower surrounding property values and shopping at lower-cost stores were consistently associated with higher obesity risk.


Lower SES was linked to higher obesity risk in both Paris and Seattle, despite differences in urban form, the food environments and in the respective systems of health care. Cross-country comparisons can provide new insights into the social determinants of weight and health.

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