Assessing the association between food environment and dietary inflammation by community type: a cross-sectional REGARDS study

Yasemin Algur, Pasquale E. Rummo, Tara P. McAlexander, S. Shanika A. De Silva, Gina S. Lovasi, Suzanne E. Judd, Victoria Ryan, Gargya Malla, Alain K. Koyama, David C. Lee, Lorna E. Thorpe, Leslie A. McClure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Communities in the United States (US) exist on a continuum of urbanicity, which may inform how individuals interact with their food environment, and thus modify the relationship between food access and dietary behaviors. Objective: This cross-sectional study aims to examine the modifying effect of community type in the association between the relative availability of food outlets and dietary inflammation across the US. Methods: Using baseline data from the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke study (2003–2007), we calculated participants’ dietary inflammation score (DIS). Higher DIS indicates greater pro-inflammatory exposure. We defined our exposures as the relative availability of supermarkets and fast-food restaurants (percentage of food outlet type out of all food stores or restaurants, respectively) using street-network buffers around the population-weighted centroid of each participant’s census tract. We used 1-, 2-, 6-, and 10-mile (~ 2-, 3-, 10-, and 16 km) buffer sizes for higher density urban, lower density urban, suburban/small town, and rural community types, respectively. Using generalized estimating equations, we estimated the association between relative food outlet availability and DIS, controlling for individual and neighborhood socio-demographics and total food outlets. The percentage of supermarkets and fast-food restaurants were modeled together. Results: Participants (n = 20,322) were distributed across all community types: higher density urban (16.7%), lower density urban (39.8%), suburban/small town (19.3%), and rural (24.2%). Across all community types, mean DIS was − 0.004 (SD = 2.5; min = − 14.2, max = 9.9). DIS was associated with relative availability of fast-food restaurants, but not supermarkets. Association between fast-food restaurants and DIS varied by community type (P for interaction = 0.02). Increases in the relative availability of fast-food restaurants were associated with higher DIS in suburban/small towns and lower density urban areas (p-values < 0.01); no significant associations were present in higher density urban or rural areas. Conclusions: The relative availability of fast-food restaurants was associated with higher DIS among participants residing in suburban/small town and lower density urban community types, suggesting that these communities might benefit most from interventions and policies that either promote restaurant diversity or expand healthier food options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number24
JournalInternational Journal of Health Geographics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Census Tract
  • Diet
  • Inflammation
  • Neighborhood characteristics
  • Restaurants
  • Supermarkets
  • Surveys and questionnaires

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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