The decision to eat a nutritious diet may be more likely driven by economics rather than the distance to the nearest grocery story, according to a new study from the University of Washington Center for Public Health Nutrition.
Previous research has suggested that the lack of conventional supermarkets offering fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and other healthy food options in urban communities has contributed to America's obesity problem.
But in the University of Washington study (.pdf), researchers found the key factor in shoppers' selection of grocery store was price, not distance:
Few people shopped for food in their immediate area. Rather, their choice of supermarkets was guided by a complex mix of attitudinal, demographic and socioeconomic. The importance of price was tempered by other variables. The perceived importance of a healthy diet, in particular, was a key factor in supermarket choice.
Importantly, the use of full service supermarkets as primary food sources did not confer protection against obesity. Depending on store type, obesity rates varied from 4% to close to 40%, even though the supermarkets in question had wide availability of fresh, wholesome foods, including vegetables and fruit. Supermarket choice may be another - and previously unacknowledged - manifestation of socioeconomic status.