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Risk of heart disease in urban ‘food deserts’ is associated with individual’s income rather than access to healthy food

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The risk for developing cardiovascular disease is higher in individuals living in low income neighborhoods or with lower personal income regardless of their access to healthy food, according to new research published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal.

The study, conducted by Emory University School of Medicine, focused on the effects of , education and socioeconomic status on healthy people living in urban deserts in the Atlanta metropolitan area. A food is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a location with both low access to healthy food and low income. Areas with low access to healthy foods are defined as areas where a significant share of people live a mile or more away in urban areas or 10 miles or more away in rural areas from a supermarket, supercenter or large grocery store. The USDA estimates 23.5 million people live in food deserts across the United States.

The researchers analyzed data from 1,421 subjects who were recruited into two health studies: 712 from the META-Health (Morehouse and Emory Team up to Eliminate Health Disparities) study and 709 from the Predictive Health study, which recruited university employees from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Participants were 20 to 70 years old with an average age of 49.4 years, 38.5 percent were male and 36.6 percent were Black.

The researchers studied demographic data, metabolic profiles and early signs of cardiovascular disease, including markers for inflammation and stiffness of the arteries, an early indicator of blood vessel disease. The researchers found that people living in food deserts (13.2 percent) had higher rates of…

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