Impact of land use and food environment on risk of type 2 diabetes: A national study of veterans, 2008–2018

Sandra India-Aldana, Rania Kanchi, Samrachana Adhikari, Priscilla Lopez, Mark D. Schwartz, Brian D. Elbel, Pasquale E. Rummo, Melissa A. Meeker, Gina S. Lovasi, Karen R. Siegel, Yu Chen, Lorna E. Thorpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Large-scale longitudinal studies evaluating influences of the built environment on risk for type 2 diabetes (T2D) are scarce, and findings have been inconsistent. Objective: To evaluate whether land use environment (LUE), a proxy of neighborhood walkability, is associated with T2D risk across different US community types, and to assess whether the association is modified by food environment. Methods: The Veteran's Administration Diabetes Risk (VADR) study is a retrospective cohort of diabetes-free US veteran patients enrolled in VA primary care facilities nationwide from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2016, and followed longitudinally through December 31, 2018. A total of 4,096,629 patients had baseline addresses available in electronic health records that were geocoded and assigned a census tract-level LUE score. LUE scores were divided into quartiles, where a higher score indicated higher neighborhood walkability levels. New diagnoses for T2D were identified using a published computable phenotype. Adjusted time-to-event analyses using piecewise exponential models were fit within four strata of community types (higher-density urban, lower-density urban, suburban/small town, and rural). We also evaluated effect modification by tract-level food environment measures within each stratum. Results: In adjusted analyses, higher LUE had a protective effect on T2D risk in rural and suburban/small town communities (linear quartile trend test p-value <0.001). However, in lower density urban communities, higher LUE increased T2D risk (linear quartile trend test p-value <0.001) and no association was found in higher density urban communities (linear quartile trend test p-value = 0.317). Particularly strong protective effects were observed for veterans living in suburban/small towns with more supermarkets and more walkable spaces (p-interaction = 0.001). Conclusion: Among veterans, LUE may influence T2D risk, particularly in rural and suburban communities. Food environment may modify the association between LUE and T2D.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113146
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Food environment
  • Land use environment
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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