Natural disasters are often associated with forced residential relocation, thereby affected people experience a change of food environment that results in the increased body mass index. However, there are a few studies that examined whether a change in food environment caused risk of obesity after a natural disaster. To address this question, we leveraged a natural experiment of residential relocation in the aftermath of the 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Our baseline data came from a nationwide cohort study of older community-dwelling adults conducted 7 months prior to the disaster. By chance, one of the field sites (Iwanuma City, Miyagi Prefecture) was directly in the line of the tsunami. Approximately 2.5 years after the disaster, we ascertained the residential addresses and health status of 3,594 survivors aged 65 years or older (82.1% follow-up rate). Fixed effects multinomial logistic regression showed that shortened distances to food outlets/bars increased the risks of transitioning from BMI in the normal range (18.5–22.9) to obesity (≥25.0) (Odds ratios: 1.46 for supermarkets; 1.43 for bars; 1.44 times for fast food outlets). Radically changed food access after a natural disaster may raise the risk of obesity among older survivors.
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