Shopping At Cheaper Supermarkets Could Make You Fatter

Let's be clear here: if you buy unhealthy foods from any supermarket, you'll end up gaining weight. But an intriguing study in Europe suggests that people who shop at cheaper supermarkets might be more susceptible to weight gain.

Picture by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A study conducted in Paris in 2007 and 2008 and including 7,131 participants found that body mass index (BMI) and waist measurements were higher for participants who shopped at discount supermarkets, had low levels of education, or who used supermarkets a considerable distance from their own neighbourhood. (As we've mentioned before, BMI isn't necessarily a good measure of individual health, but is widely used when comparing groups.)

It's only one study, and the supermarket landscape varies a lot from country to country. Australia and France both have ALDI, for instance, but they're actually run by different organisations; Australia is ultimately part of ALDI Sud, France is run by ALDI Nord. And Paris' urban density is quite different to that found in Australian cities. The study found that only 11.4 per cent of participants primarily shopped in their local neighbourhood; it would be interesting to see comparable numbers for Australia.

It's also clear that the demographics involved are important: discount supermarkets are often located in less affluent areas, the effect was more marked amongst lower-educated participants. So if there's a lesson you can definitely draw, it's that spending time to think about your food choices always pays off.

Associations of Supermarket Characteristics with Weight Status and Body Fat [PLoS ONE]


    What a load of garbage. You probably did not have anything better to report. If you go to France you have a healthy competition of supermarkets, while in Australia we are gorged by the 2 chains Coles & Wollies. Give us Aldi any time. It is up to the customer what he/she buys. Just look into the trolleys at the 2 big ones here and see the crap customers buy and by golly just have a look how fat the Aussies are in comparison to the French

      Memo to Mike: it's perfectly possible to disagree while remaining civil.

    The last paragraph nails it on the head. It's more likely that the BMI of the people in this study is linked to their socioeconomic status and other factors, like education, rather than the frequency with which they shop at discount supermarkets. Correlation does not imply causation. In Germany, there's a correlation between the declining stork population and falling human birthrates. This doesn't mean that storks bring babies :)

      There is a long-running correlation between the poorer end of society and higher levels of obesity. Cheap food is often higher in fat content - think cheap, fatty mince compared to prime, lean steak.

        I dont think its the fat that is the problem. Sugar / High Carb Products - thats the enemy.

      Relatedly, towns with a large number of churches have a correspondingly large amount of pubs. Does religion cause drinking or drinking cause religion?

    You can't have it both ways. it is implied that if you shop at discount chains there for you are after the best deals. Instead of buying 250g of frozen chips you see a 1kg for the same price.
    Conversely you aren't going to see a 1kg smoke salmon for cheaper.

    The point I'm making is people do what they have to do with what they got. What's the point of that report or even bringing attention to it?

    Does it tell governments to hand out free vegetables? Are you suggesting a solution i.e. from your own pocket?

    I haven't read the report, only the article, so this may already be covered, but nevertheless: Correlation does not equal causation.

    We shop at Aldi for certain things (bread and milk in particular). The layout of the Aldi stores takes you down a row of sweets and lollies the moment you walk in the day.

    And it's all very cheap.

    We prefer majority of the produce Aldi stock over what Coles & Woolworths do because it actually seems better quality for less money. For example their range of Italian pasta sauces & canned tomatoes way a head of the "leading" brands at the super markets on flavour, quality & price.

    Also a lot of the people I see shopping at Aldi are pensioners & young families, none who ever look overweight. Go to my local coles or woolworths and there are plenty of them, but you know with junk food at the end of every aisle what can be expected from it?

    Angus, on your tombstone it's going to read Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

    WOW! Multiple responses pointing out the correlation /causation problem. None-the-less, it looks like an interesting study with a decent methodological basis. Lots of room for confounding effects meaning that the researchers will be happily applying for more grants for extension of the research stretching into the future.

    Props to Angus for including a proper source document link.

    Maybe instead of blaming the supermarket blame the people with a lack of self control & poor dietary habits -_-

    Fat people need more food, and probably look for a better deal, not the other way around as suggested by this article.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now