Is it possible that big box stores like Wal-Mart actually help people lose weight? I’ve given my two cents on this subject before. My unscientific opinion has been that if food keeps getting cheaper and cheaper, it usually coincides with more and more processed foods, which leads to unhealthier consumers.
Not so fast, apparently.
According to Zubin Jelveh at Portfolio.com, there’s a study that found no evidence that the proliferation of Wal-Mart stores has led to weight gains. The funny thing is that it seems they coincide with slight weight loss.
Charles Courtemanche from University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Art Carden of Rhodes College in Tennessee looked at county-level data on big box stores (different versions of Wal-Mart stores as well as Costcos) and survey data which captured residents’ demographic information as well as eating, shopping, smoking, drinking, and exercising habits. They found that one additional regular Wal-Mart store (which doesn’t sell groceries) was associated with a drop of 0.5 pounds for a person of the average height. An additional Super Wal-Mart, which does sell groceries, was associated with a weight drop of 0.18 pounds.
The theory is centered around the idea that cheaper food allows for more money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
I’m still skeptical. For one, there seem to be too many variables to prove their theory. Plus, the study also found that an additional Wal-Mart also led to decreased exercise. Either way, it seems there are other factors to include, like a a down economy that may lead people to eat out less, which should have a positive effect on waistlines.
September 12th, 2008