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Journal of Obesity




INTRODUCTION: Limited access to healthy food in areas that are predominantly food deserts or food swamps may be associated with obesity. Other unhealthy behaviors may also be associated with obesity and poor food environments.

METHODS: We calculated Modified Retail Food Environment Index (mRFEI) to assess food retailers. Using data collected from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, the NJ Department of Health (NJDOH), and the US Census Bureau, we conducted a cross-sectional analysis of the interaction of obesity with the food environment and assessed smoking, leisure-time physical activity (LPA), and poor sleep.

RESULTS: There were 17.9% food deserts and 9.3% food swamps in NJ. There was a statistically significant negative correlation between mRFEI and obesity rate (Pearson's r −0.13, p <0.001), suggesting that lack of access to healthy food is associated with obesity. Regression analysis was significantly and independently associated with increased obesity prevalence (adjusted R square 0.74 and p =0.008). Obesity correlated positively with unhealthy behaviors. Each unhealthy behavior was negatively correlated with mRFEI. The mean prevalence for smoking, LPA, and sleep <7 hours was 15.4 (12.5–18.6), 26.5 (22.5–32.3), and 37.3 (34.9–40.4), respectively.

CONCLUSION: Obesity tracks with food deserts and especially food swamps. It is also correlated with other unhealthy behaviors (smoking, LPA, and poor sleep).


Copyright © 2023 Elizabeth Cerceo et al.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.