Availability and Accessibility of Healthy and Unhealthy Foods in Neighborhood and their Association with Noncommunicable Diseases: A Scoping Review (2024)

Sachdeva B, Puri S, Aeri BT. Availability and accessibility of healthy and unhealthy foods in neighborhood and their association with noncommunicable diseases: A scoping review. Indian J Public Health 2024;68:95-105. DOI: 10.4103/ijph.ijph_436_23


Worldwide, 7 million mortalities and 187.7 million morbidities have been associated with dietary risks. Poor diets emerge because of an obesogenic environment. However, clear evidence indicating an association between food environment and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) is inconclusive.

The present review was conducted to study the associations between the availability/accessibility of healthy/unhealthy foods and the risk of NCDs among adults of the age group above 18. Studies published between 2012 and 2022 were retrieved using three databases – PubMed, Google Scholar, and Science Direct.

Following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR), (2018) guidelines and based on the selection criteria, 3034 studies were retrieved, of which 64 were included in this review. Maximum studies were conducted in high-income countries and adopted a cross-sectional study design.

Overall, the results of the review illustrate mixed findings.

  • Compared to healthy food, direct associations between obesity and the availability/accessibility of unhealthy foods were reported (n = 12).
  • In the case of diabetes, supermarket availability was more likely to be protective (4 positive) compared to a negative association with unhealthy food stores (3 associations in 11 studies).
  • For cardiovascular diseases, an increased number of cases with fast-food outlets (n = 6) outnumbered positive associations with healthy food (n = 3).
  • Studies concerning multiple NCDs reported direct associations with unhealthy food outlets (n = 5) while inconclusive associations with healthy food.

Despite a large number of studies, a weak, inconclusive relationship between food environment and NCDs was found. The use of standardized tools and longitudinal and interventional studies are warranted to rationalize the execution of the policies related to the food environment.

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