New study confirms local environment appears to be linked to health behaviour and the risk of developing obesity. However, fast-food outlets are not the only culprit.
It may come as no surprise, but your environment affects your health behaviour. You are, for instance, more likely to be overweight If You Live in These U.S – obesity affect approximately a third of Americans today. It happens where you live indeed predicts how likely you are to be obese. Recent British research investigated the characteristics of an “obesogenic” environment in detail. The team studied combined factors in residential areas in Yorkshire, England, to see what is to be blamed for obesity.
The study confirmed the link between fast food and obesity. Those living at least 1.24 miles (2,000 m) away from fast food reported a slightly smaller waist circumference compared to those living less than 0.3 miles (500 m) away. “Fast food is specifically designed to be affordable, appealing and convenient,” according to Lorraine Reitzel, of the Health Disparities Research department at MD Anderson. “People are pressed for time, and they behave in such a way that will cost them the least amount of time to get things done, and this may extend to their food choices.”
Also, restricting fast-food outlets applications is one option to reduce obesity levels – a strategy recently adopted by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. However, such a simplistic solution misses part of the issue – as the study shows. It fails to acknowledge many other environmental influences. For example, if the number of fast-food outlets in an area is restricted, people will still be able to buy unhealthy food from convenience stores or supermarkets.
This is why “designing and planning cities in a way that better facilitates healthy lifestyles may be beneficial and should be considered as part of wider obesity prevention programs” according to the team of researchers. Increasing access to local physical activity facilities could be key to reducing overweight and obesity levels. In the study, high availability of gyms and parks were associated with a 14% lower risk of obesity. Hopefully those findings should prompt local councils to consider other aspects of neighbourhood planning when trying to tackle obesity.
Being overweight or obese can have a serious impact on health as risk of developing devastating chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and some cancers increases along with body mass index.
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