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This study systematically reviewed literature on the neighbourhood food environment in relation to diet and obesity among residents in China.
A keyword search of peer-reviewed articles was performed in Cochrane Library, PubMed, and Web of Science. Eligibility criteria include study designs: longitudinal/cohort studies or cross-sectional studies; study participants: people of all ages; exposures: neighbourhood food environment (e.g. restaurants, supermarkets, wet markets, fast-food restaurants, or convenience stores); outcomes: diet and/or body weight status; and country: China.
Seventeen studies met all criteria and were included. Among the eight studies that assessed the neighbourhood food environment in relation to diet, six reported at least one statistically significant relationship in the expected direction, whereas the remaining two exclusively reported null effects. Among the eleven studies that assessed the neighbourhood food environment in relation to body weight or overweight/obesity, ten reported a significant association whereas the remaining one reported a null relationship. Variety, density, and proximity of food outlets were positively associated with local residents’ dietary diversity, portion size, and daily caloric intake. Density and proximity of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores were positively associated with local residents’ adiposity in some but not all studies. Evidence linking any specific food outlet type to diet/obesity remains lacking due to the small number of studies and heterogeneities in food environment measures, geographical locations, and population subgroups.
The neighbourhood food environment may influence diet and obesity among Chinese residents but the evidence remains preliminary. Future studies adopting an experimental study design and objective/validated environment and dietary measures are warranted.
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