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09-04-2012 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Supermarket choice may affect body weight


Free abstract

MedWire News: Results of a French study suggest that a person's weight may be affected by the supermarket they choose to shop in.

"The results indicate that a greater distance from one's home to one's primary supermarket, a lower SES [socioeconomic status] of supermarket catchment area, and shopping in specific supermarket brands or supermarket types… were associated with a greater BMI [body mass index] and WC [waist circumference]," write Basile Chaix (Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris) and colleagues.

They suggest that supermarkets may be appropriate targets for public health interventions to change food purchasing behavior.

As reported in PLoS ONE, Chaix and team used data from the RECORD (Residential Environment and CORonary heart Disease, 2007-2008) cohort study to investigate the association between supermarket characteristics and weight status and body fat.

The participants were aged between 30 and 79 years at enrollment and had a mean BMI of 25.5 kg/m2. Mean WC was 77.7 cm among women and 89.0 cm among men. All participants were asked to report the supermarket brand and location where they did most of their food shopping.

Overall, Chaix et al found that 7131 participants shopped in 1097 different supermarkets. Of these, just 11.4% reported shopping for food primarily within their residential neighborhood.

Participants who did most of their food shopping far from home had a WC up to 1.1 cm larger and had a BMI up to 0.3 kg/m2 higher than those who shopped closer to home. The authors suggest this may be because people shopping far from their residence go to their supermarket less frequently and may accordingly rely on less fresh products.

Shopping at discount supermarkets or at supermarkets in areas with poorly educated consumers was associated with an increased WC (2.2 and 1.1 cm larger, respectively) and BMI (0.7 and 0.5 kg/m2 higher) compared with shopping at city markets, while participants shopping in organic shops tended to have a lower WC (6.1 cm lower) and BMI (2.1 kg/m2 lower) than those who shopped at other types of supermarket.

The researchers conclude that implementing interventions focused on food purchasing behavior in specific supermarkets may be an efficient strategy to reduce WC and BMI.

"Supermarkets are the very place where dietary preferences are concretely materialized and translated into a definite set of purchased foods," they say.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Nikki Withers