Obesity is likely to affect individuals in low-income areas where fresh fruits and vegetables may not be as plentiful, according to a new University of Houston study.
The finding is suggested in a study on the availability and quality of produce in high-income versus low-income urban neighborhoods. The study was made possible by a two year, $110,000 grant from the American Heart Association Heartland Affiliate.
"Obesity disproportionately burdens low-income, ethnic minority populations," said Rebecca E. Lee, assistant professor of health and human performance and lead researcher on the study. "The results suggest that these populations have less access to healthy foods."
The study found that people living in low-income, urban neighborhoods had access to at least one convenience store and a liquor store that sold convenience foods, but very few supermarkets or grocery stores. The produce that was available to these neighborhoods included few fresh fruits and hardly any vegetables. In contrast, the high-income urban neighborhoods studied were more likely to have access to supermarkets and grocery stores and the quality and quantity of produce available was higher than those found in low-income neighborhoods.
The study was presented in a Las Vegas conference for the North American Association for the Study of Obesity and the American Diabetes Association.
Lee's research incorporates environmental and individual determinants of physical activity, dietary habits and obesity prevention in ethnic minority and underserved populations. Her work combines theory and techniques drawn from behavioral medicine, community psychology, geography, policy science, social ecology and social marketing.