PloS one 2017 09 2112(9) e0185148 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0185148
While undernutrition and related infectious diseases are still pervasive in many developing countries, the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCD), typically associated with high body mass index (BMI), is rapidly rising. The fast spread of supermarkets and related shifts in diets were identified as possible factors contributing to overweight and obesity in developing countries. Potential effects of supermarkets on people’s health have not been analyzed up till now.
This study investigates the effects of purchasing food in supermarkets on people’s BMI, as well as on health indicators such as fasting blood glucose (FBG), blood pressure (BP), and the metabolic syndrome.
This study uses cross-section observational data from urban Kenya. Demographic, anthropometric, and bio-medical data were collected from 550 randomly selected adults. Purchasing food in supermarkets is defined as a binary variable that takes a value of one if any food was purchased in supermarkets during the last 30 days. In a robustness check, the share of food purchased in supermarkets is defined as a continuous variable. Instrumental variable regressions are applied to control for confounding factors and establish causality.
Purchasing food in supermarkets contributes to higher BMI (+ 1.8 kg/m2) (P<0.01) and an increased probability (+ 20 percentage points) of being overweight or obese (P<0.01). Purchasing food in supermarkets also contributes to higher levels of FBG (+ 0.3 mmol/L) (P<0.01) and a higher likelihood (+ 16 percentage points) of suffering from pre-diabetes (P<0.01) and the metabolic syndrome (+ 7 percentage points) (P<0.01). Effects on BP could not be observed. CONCLUSIONS
Supermarkets and their food sales strategies seem to have direct effects on people’s health. In addition to increasing overweight and obesity, supermarkets contribute to nutrition-related NCDs. Effects of supermarkets on nutrition and health can mainly be ascribed to changes in the composition of people’s food choices.