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Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Jun 1;107(6):1004-1016. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy045.

Grocery store interventions to change food purchasing behaviors: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.

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1
Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Background:

Diet is an important determinant of health, and food purchasing is a key antecedent to consumption.

Objective:

We set out to evaluate the effectiveness of grocery store interventions to change food purchasing, and to examine whether effectiveness varied based on intervention components, setting, or socioeconomic status.

Design:

We conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (search performed June 2017). Studies must have: aimed to change food purchasing; been implemented in grocery stores (real or simulated); reported purchasing; and had a minimal control or compared interventions fulfilling our criteria. Searching, screening, bias assessment, and data extraction followed Cochrane methods. We grouped studies by intervention type (economic, environmental, swaps, and/or education), synthesized results narratively, and conducted an exploratory qualitative comparative analysis.

Results:

We included 35 studies representing 89 interventions, >20,000 participants, and >800 stores. Risk of bias was mixed. Economic interventions showed the most promise, with 8 of the 9 studies in real stores and all 6 in simulated environments detecting an effect on purchasing. Swap interventions appeared promising in the 2 studies based in real stores. Store environment interventions showed mixed effects. Education-only interventions appeared effective in simulated environments but not in real stores. Available data suggested that effects of economic interventions did not differ by socioeconomic status, whereas for other interventions impact was variable. In our qualitative comparative analysis, economic interventions (regardless of setting) and environmental and swap interventions in real stores were associated with statistically significant changes in purchasing in the desired direction for ≥1 of the foods targeted by the intervention, whereas education-only interventions in real stores were not.

Conclusions:

Findings suggest that interventions implemented in grocery stores-particularly ones that manipulate price, suggest swaps, and perhaps manipulate item availability-have an impact on purchasing and could play a role in public health strategies to improve health. Review protocol registered at https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO/ as CRD42017068809.

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