Background

Research is limited in the food environment and its influences on population health in China, especially the relationship between food store distribution, diet behavior, and health outcomes. The aim of this study is to examine the distribution of unprocessed fresh food stores and its relationship with body fat across age and education levels among Chinese adults.

Methods

Unprocessed fresh food store information was obtained through field investigation and Geographic Information Systems (GPS) was used to analyze the latitude and longitude and spatial distribution of store. A group of 2640 permanent residents aged 18-80 from the study area were recruited, the physical examination data and questionnaire survey data (e.g. demographic information, health behavior, health status etc.) were collected. Using ARCGIS 10.2 software, we calculated the number of stores within 1500 m of the respondents’ home. Using multivariate linear regression analyses, we aimed to evaluate the association of food store numbers with total and regional fat mass percent (FM%) among different age and education levels.

Results

According to the multivariate linear regression analyses, we found that increased number of unprocessed fresh food stores was associated with lower trunk FM%, lower android-to-gynoid fat mass ratio (AOI), higher leg and gynoid FM% in middle-aged and older people. However, the association was not significant among young people. As for the education levels, it showed that the relationship between food store numbers and body fat was only significant in low education level people, the link in middle and high level were not apparent.

Conclusions

The numbers of unprocessed fresh food store were associated with body fat among Chinese adults, especially for those aged 45-80 and low education levels. Appropriate measures should be taken to improve the existing food environment, such as enlarge the density of stores that offer unprocessed fresh food.