The study was led by Doctor Samina Raja, professor of urban and regional planning (University at Buffalo). "In particular, three findings are significant," says Raja. "First, a greater number of restaurants within a five-minute walk of a subject's house was associated with a greater BMI, holding other factors constant," she says.
"Second," she says, "on average, women who live within relative proximity to supermarkets and grocery stores (as opposed to convenience stores) tend to have lower BMIs.
"Third, and perhaps most important," Raja says, "the interaction of the food environment and the built environment in a neighbourhood carries significant consequences for obesity. For example, a diverse land-use mix, while beneficial for promoting physical activity, is tied to a net increase in BMI when that land is dominated by restaurants."
She says future research on the built environment and health must take into account the role of the food environment on women's health, and the study offers suggestions for how food environments may be improved using planning strategies.
She points out that more than one-third of U.S. adults were reported to be obese in 2006, with the prevalence of obesity slightly greater among women than men.
"The prevalence of obesity is a significant public health concern because it places individuals at a risk for a variety of diseases," she says, "and the role of environmental factors in contributing to obesity has received a lot of attention. We have attempted here to explain the paradox of high BMI rates among women living in highly walkable inner city neighbourhoods.
"The study raises several questions to be addressed in future research," she says, "and suggests that innovative research designs will be necessary to develop greater evidence of causality – perhaps longitudinal studies that look at how moving one's residence (thus changing exposure to a particular food, food type or built environment) affects physical activity, eating behaviour and health outcomes."
MEDICA.de; Source: University at Buffalo