Study: New Walmarts bring low prices, higher obesity

An interesting study to be published in the March issue of the Journal of Urban Economics says that over a ten year period, it seems the introduction of a local Walmart Supercenter leads to measurable weight gain in populations.

Consumerist quotes an article in the Montreal Gazette, indicating that a new Walmart "per 100,000 residents meant an average weight gain of 1.5 pounds per person" spanning the decade following the store's opening. Obesity rates jumped 2.3 percent among those same populations, affecting roughly one out of every fifty people. A researcher at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro speculated upon what may cause the obesity spike in relation to new Walmart Supercenters:

"I think the most obvious story is that Walmart lowers the price of foods and a lot of the foods it has big price advantages on are the processed, inner-aisle types of food that aren't that good for you... It's not just about Walmart underselling the competitor. It's about the competitors cutting their prices in response to competition from Walmart. Someone might never step foot in a Walmart, but they still might pay less for their food."
Women, low-income families and people in remote areas were most likely to be affected by obesity in the wake of a new Walmart opening in their area. Researchers are quick to say that Walmart shouldn't be blamed for the findings, and that the factors are part of a "very broad debate."