Introduction: Natural experiments can strengthen evidence linking neighborhood food retail presence to dietary intake patterns and cardiometabolic health outcomes, yet sample size and follow-up duration are typically not extensive. To complement natural experiment evidence, longitudinal data were used to estimate the impacts of neighborhood food retail presence on incident disease.
Methods: The Cardiovascular Health Study recruited adults aged 65+ years in 1989-1993. Analyses conducted in 2021-2022 included those in good baseline health, with addresses updated annually through the year of death (restricted to 91% who died during >2 decades of cohort follow-up). Baseline and annually updated presence of 2 combined food retail categories (supermarkets/produce markets and convenience/snack focused) was characterized using establishment-level data for 1-km and 5-km Euclidean buffers. Cox proportional hazards models estimated associations with time to each incident outcome (cardiovascular disease, diabetes), adjusting for individual and area-based confounders.
Results: Among 2,939 participants, 36% with baseline supermarket/produce market presence within 1 km had excess incident cardiovascular disease (hazard ratio=1.12; 95% CI=1.01, 1.24); the association was attenuated and no longer statistically significant after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics. Adjusted associations were robustly null for time-varying supermarket/produce market or convenience/fast food retail presence across analyses with outcomes of cardiovascular disease or diabetes incidence.
Conclusions: Food environment changes continue to be studied to provide an evidence base for policy decisions, and null findings in this longitudinal analysis add literature that casts doubt on the sufficiency of strategies targeting food retail presence alone of an elderly cohort for curtailing incident events of clinical importance.
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