The University at Buffalo conducted a study connecting the dots between a woman’s body mass index and two types of environment that impact her daily: where she eats and shops, and the other structures that have been built up in her neighborhood.
Looking at the environment is not only a Buffalo issue. Studies that assessed similar concerns were also published in 2009 about Portland, Oregon, and New York City. At UB, the study crossed over departments, including urban and regional planning, pediatrics, and biostatistics. Raja Samina, Ph.D., professor of urban and regional planning, was the lead author.
Dr. Samina reported in the Journal of Planning Education and Research that obesity is a public health concern because it places people at risk for disease. What the researchers wanted to do in this study was to try to explain why the BMI rates were high in women when the immediate neighborhoods they lived in didn’t require transportation. More walking would result from that.
They found that if other factors were the same, greater BMI is associated with the number of restaurants within a five-minute walk from home. Another finding: that a lower BMI was associated with living closer to supermarkets and grocery stores than to convenience stores. Another: that when neighborhoods have a mix of land uses, it matters whether a large proportion of it is invested in restaurants. Too many restaurants relative to other uses, too high an increase in BMI.
Walkability in neighborhoods is generally considered beneficial for exercise on a daily basis. In the Portland study, over 1200 from 50-75 years old were followed over a three-year period. The purpose of the study was to take a look at body weight and physical activity as they are impacted by the land use.
The research concluded that making changes in the land use could make it more conducive to eating better and walking more. As did the UB research team, the Portland team, which was part of the Portland Oregon Neighborhood Environment and Health Study, concluded that this is a public health issue as well as an urban planning matter.
At the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, another article demonstrated that, again from public health and urban design angles, taking a comprehensive look at where people shop for food might affect body size. They found that the more density there was in the number of healthy food outlets, the lower the average BMI and the lower prevalence of overweight and obese adults.
All of these studies were reported between 2009 and 2010. During that same time period. Buffalo neighborhoods made progress, and urban farming contributed. To read more about it, click here.
To read more about the role of food manufacturers in obesity and the social benefits of healthy eating, click here.
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