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Approved research

Does cognitive function modify the impact of the local foodscape on diet, weight, and physical activity?

Principal Investigator: Professor Theresa Marteau
Approved Research ID: 24635
Approval date: March 1st 2017

Lay summary

It has been shown that differences in exposure to fast food outlets are associated with fast food intake and weight status, and that such effects may be greater among those with lower levels of education. The proposed research aims to expand upon previous findings by investigating whether individual differences in cognitive function, which are associated with differences in socioeconomic position, modify the relationship between local food environments and health behaviours (diet, weight, and physical activity) and help to explain any modification effects by education and other socioeconomic factors. The research will provide novel information regarding how modifiable features of the environment influence health behaviour and health outcomes, and how such effects might differ according to socioeconomic position and cognitive function. An understanding of environmental influences on health behaviour, such as number and type of unhealthy food outlets, and factors that modify these influences, could inform cost-effective policy options to improve population health and reduce health inequalities. We will first explore whether cognitive resources explain any association between socioeconomic position and diet, weight status, and physical activity. We will then test whether cognitive resources modify the association between exposure to unhealthy food environments and diet/weight/activity, with the prediction that those with weaker cognitive resources will show a stronger association between an unhealthy food environment and (a) an unhealthy diet, (b) likelihood of being overweight, (b) less activity. Finally, we will examine whether cognitive resources explain the observation that socioeconomic position modifies the impact of the food environment on diet/weight. This research will focus on the 52,360 respondents living within Greater London, for whom foodscape accessibility metrics have been calculated.