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PLoS One. 2019 Aug 7;14(8):e0219365. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219365. eCollection 2019.

Impact of multiple food environments on body mass index.

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Department of Economics, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States of America.



Although the relationship between residential food environments and health outcomes have been extensively studied, the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and multiple food environments have not been fully explored. We examined the relationship between characteristics of three distinct food environments and BMI among elementary school employees in the metropolitan area of New Orleans, LA. We assessed the food environments around the residential and worksite neighborhoods and the commuting corridors.


This study combined data from three different sources: individual and worksite data (ACTION), food retailer database (Dunn and Bradstreet), and the U.S. Census TIGER/Line Files. Spatial and hierarchical analyses were performed to explore the impact of predictors at the individual and environmental levels on BMI. When the three food environments were combined, the number of supermarkets and the number of grocery stores at residential food environment had a significant association with BMI (β = 0.56 and β = 0.24, p < 0.01), whereas the number of full-service restaurants showed an inverse relationship with BMI (β = -0.15, p < 0.001). For the commute corridor food environment, it was found that each additional fast-food restaurant in a vicinity of one kilometer traveled contributed to a higher BMI (β = 0.80, p <0.05), while adjusting for other factors. No statistical associations were found between BMI and worksite food environment.


The current study was the first to examine the relationship between BMI and food environments around residential neighborhoods, work neighborhoods, and the commuting corridor. Significant results were found between BMI and the availability of food stores around residential neighborhoods and the commuting corridor, adjusted for individual-level factors. This study expands the analysis beyond residential neighborhoods, illustrating the importance of multiple environmental factors in relation to BMI.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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