Thursday, June 12, 2008

Neighborhood Environments May Impact Residents' Weight

“Neighborhoods that enable physical activity and offer access to healthy foods appear to impact residents' weight. Neighborhoods ‘influence the extent to which people adopt and maintain behaviors linked to obesity,’ Dr. Mahasin S. Mujahid of Harvard University's School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts told Reuters Health. ‘Even highly motivated individuals will find it very difficult to be more physically active and eat healthy foods if they live in environments that do not help support these lifestyles,’ said Mujahid. Mujahid and colleagues looked at associations between the physical and social aspects of neighborhoods in New York City, Baltimore, Maryland, and Forsyth County, North Carolina and the body weight of 2,865 adults who lived in these locations between 2000 and 2002. The researchers found that men and women living in neighborhoods with better walking environments and availability of healthy foods were leaner than those living in less physically desirable neighborhoods. Neighborhoods rated higher in social qualities, such as safety, aesthetics, and social cohesion, were associated with lower overall body mass index among women. However men showed the opposite -- higher body mass index among those residing in highly rated social neighborhoods -- and the investigators say further research must confirm this unexpected finding.”

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