Background: Food access is an important aspect of health promotion for the elderly. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between distance to the nearest food store and diet variety in rural community-dwelling elderly Japanese.
Methods: This cross-sectional study analyzed data from 1,103 elderly participants surveyed by mail in rural areas of Japan. Diversity of food intake was assessed using the diet variety score (DVS). Street network distance from home to food store was calculated and categorized by quartile using a geographic information system and analyzed in relation to diet using multivariable regression with the primary outcome as low DVS. Sub-analysis of the association with DVS was conducted for each food store category (convenience store, supermarket, and small food store). The association between intake frequency of each food group and distance was also analyzed.
Results: Participants in the fourth quartile of distance to food store had significantly higher prevalence ratio (1.15; 95% CI, 1.01-1.32) for low DVS than those in the first quartile. There was a significant tendency between greater distance to food store and lower DVS (P for trend = 0.033). Supermarkets and convenience stores, in particular, showed significant associations. Greater distance was significantly associated with lower frequency of meat and fruit intake.
Conclusion: There was significant association between distance to nearest food store and diet variety in rural Japanese elderly. These findings suggest the importance of interventions for areas at high risk of low diet variety, such as places far away from food stores.
Keywords: diet variety; geographic information systems; neighborhood food environment; public health.