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Does the choice of neighbourhood supermarket access measure influence associations with individual-level fruit and vegetable consumption? A case study from Glasgow

Lukar E Thornton1*, Jamie R Pearce2, Laura Macdonald3, Karen E Lamb4 and Anne Ellaway3

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria, 3125, Australia

2 Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health (CRESH), School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP, United Kingdom

3 Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, G12 8RZ, Scotland, United Kingdom

4 Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Flemington Road, Parkville, Victoria, 3052, Australia

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2012, 11:29  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-11-29

Published: 27 July 2012



Previous studies have provided mixed evidence with regards to associations between food store access and dietary outcomes. This study examines the most commonly applied measures of locational access to assess whether associations between supermarket access and fruit and vegetable consumption are affected by the choice of access measure and scale.


Supermarket location data from Glasgow, UK (n = 119), and fruit and vegetable intake data from the ‘Health and Well-Being’ Survey (n = 1041) were used to compare various measures of locational access. These exposure variables included proximity estimates (with different points-of-origin used to vary levels of aggregation) and density measures using three approaches (Euclidean and road network buffers and Kernel density estimation) at distances ranging from 0.4 km to 5 km. Further analysis was conducted to assess the impact of using smaller buffer sizes for individuals who did not own a car. Associations between these multiple access measures and fruit and vegetable consumption were estimated using linear regression models.


Levels of spatial aggregation did not impact on the proximity estimates. Counts of supermarkets within Euclidean buffers were associated with fruit and vegetable consumption at 1 km, 2 km and 3 km, and for our road network buffers at 2 km, 3 km, and 4 km. Kernel density estimates provided the strongest associations and were significant at a distance of 2 km, 3 km, 4 km and 5 km. Presence of a supermarket within 0.4 km of road network distance from where people lived was positively associated with fruit consumption amongst those without a car (coef. 0.657; s.e. 0.247; p0.008).


The associations between locational access to supermarkets and individual-level dietary behaviour are sensitive to the method by which the food environment variable is captured. Care needs to be taken to ensure robust and conceptually appropriate measures of access are used and these should be grounded in a clear a priori reasoning.

Geographic information systems; Food environment; Dietary behaviours