Improvement in food environments may help prevent childhood obesity: Evidence from a 9-year cohort study

Youfa Wang, Peng Jia, Xi Cheng, Hong Xue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Effects of food environments (FEs) on childhood obesity are mixed. Objectives: To examine the association of residential FEs with childhood obesity and variation of the association across gender and urbanicity. Methods: We used the US Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten Cohort data, with 9440 kindergarteners followed up from 1998 to 2007. The Dun and Bradstreet commercial datasets in 1998 and 2007 were used to construct 12 FE measures of children, ie, changes in the food outlet mix and density of supermarkets, convenience stores, full-service restaurants, fast-food restaurants, retail bakery, dairy-product stores, health/dietetic food stores, confectionery stores, fruit/vegetable markets, meat/fish markets, and beverage stores. Two-level mixed-effect and cluster robust logistic regression models were fitted to examine associations. Results: Decreased exposures to full-service restaurants, retail bakeries, fruit/vegetable markets, and beverage stores were generally obesogenic, while decreased exposure to dairy-product stores was generally obesoprotective; the magnitude and statistical significance of these associations varied by gender and urbanicity of residence. Higher obesity risk was associated with increased exposure to full-service restaurants among girls, and with decreased exposures to fruit/vegetable markets in urban children, to beverage stores in suburban children, and to health/dietetic food stores in rural children. Mixed findings existed between genders on the associations of fruit/vegetable markets with child weight status. Conclusion: In the United States, exposure to different FEs seemed to lead to different childhood obesity risks during 1998 to 2007; the association varied across gender and urbanicity. This study has important implications for future urban design and community-based interventions in fighting the obesity epidemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12536
JournalPediatric Obesity
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescents
  • body mass index
  • children
  • food environment
  • obesity
  • overweight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Health Policy
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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