Associations of built environment and proximity of food outlets with weight status: Analysis from 14 cities in 10 countries

Prev Med. 2019 Dec;129:105874. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2019.105874. Epub 2019 Oct 22.


The study aimed to examine associations of neighborhood built environments and proximity of food outlets (BE measures) with body weight status using pooled data from an international study (IPEN Adult). Objective BE measures were calculated using geographic information systems for 10,008 participants (4463 male, 45%) aged 16-66 years in 14 cities. Participants self-reported proximity to three types of food outlets. Outcomes were body mass index (BMI) and overweight/obesity status. Male and female weight status associations with BE measures were estimated by generalized additive mixed models. Proportion (95% CI) of overweight (BMI 25 to <30) ranged from 16.6% (13.1, 19.8) to 41.1% (37.3, 44.7), and obesity (BMI ≥ 30) from 2.9% (1.3, 4.4) to 31.3% (27.7, 34.7), with Hong Kong being the lowest and Cuernavaca, Mexico highest for both proportions. Results differed by sex. Greater street intersection density, public transport density and perceived proximity to restaurants (males) were associated with lower odds of overweight/obesity (BMI ≥ 25). Proximity to public transport stops (females) was associated with higher odds of overweight/obesity. Composite BE measures were more strongly related to BMI and overweight/obesity status than single variables among men but not women. One standard deviation improvement in the composite measures of BE was associated with small reductions of 0.1-0.5% in BMI but meaningful reductions of 2.5-5.3% in the odds of overweight/obesity. Effects were linear and generalizable across cities. Neighborhoods designed to support public transport, with food outlets within walking distance, may contribute to global obesity control.

Keywords: BMI; IPEN Adult study; international; obesity; obesogenic environment; walkability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Built Environment*
  • Cities
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Geographic Information Systems / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Internationality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Restaurants*
  • Sex Factors
  • Transportation / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult