Are Food Deserts A Mirage?

February 8th, 2014 No comments »

A study in California shows no relationship between food outlets and Body Mass Index BMI) but did find an association between supermarkets and BMI beyond a walking distance of 1 mile or greater. Researchers conclude that shopping patterns are weakly related, if at all, to neighborhoods because of car transportation. Another study of the Pennsylvania Fresh Foods Financing Initiative. Researchers found in this pilot study in one Philadelphia community that improved access to grocery stores improved residents’ perceptions of food accessibility. However, improved access does not lead to changes in consumption of fruits and vegetables not improvements in Body Mass Index (BMI).

 

Food Deserts Questioned…Again

August 25th, 2012 2 comments »

Is there a robust relationship between neighborhood food environments and childhood obesity? That is the question Roland Sturm and colleagues Victoria Shier and Ruopeng An set out to answer in a new paper in the journal, Public Health. Using standard definitions and a large database of 5th and 8th graders, they found “no consistent evidence across (counts of a particular type of food outlets per population, food environment indices and indicators for the presence of specific combinations of types of food stores) and outcomes to support the hypothesis that improved access to large supermarkets results in lower youth BMI, or greater exposure to fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and small food stores increases BMI.” See PubMed: Is There a Robust Relationship between Neighborhood food environment

Don’t tell Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. In May, at the Weight of the Nation Conference, she declared that food deserts were a cause of obesity stating, “Obesity can be caused by any combination of factors. For some, it is an addiction like smoking. For others, it’s a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables near their home.” HHS_Secretary Speeches_Weight of the Nation

This may be just a case of sloppy thinking or poor staff work. More likely, it was an effort to buttress First Lady’s Michelle Obama’s major $400 million initiative to bring supermarkets to underserved areas. Let’sMove: Food desert programs. Sturm’s earlier paper had already questioned this policy. PubMed: School and residential food environment California

 

Studies on the Built Environment and Obesity Challenged

August 22nd, 2012 No comments »

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Health Care Organization and Policy have made some interesting findings regarding the literature around the built environment (parks, trails, sidewalks) and physical activity and obesity. Of the 169 articles they looked at, 89% reported beneficial relationships but virtually all utilized simple observational designs. Studies utilizing objective measures of obesity, such as pedometers, were 18 % less likely to find a positive relationship. Articles focusing on children in community settings, those with direct measures of obesity or those with an academic first author were less likely to find a beneficial relationship. Conclusion: policy makers should require more rigorous scientific research, which, by the way, is the same conclusion Chris Still and I came to in our recent article.

See PubMed: Relationship between Built Environment and Physical Activity

 

Doubts about food deserts don’t deter head of HHS

June 10th, 2012 No comments »

The June 10th Washington Post has an insightful article on the federally-funded food desert initiative in Philadelphia. The article describes how an hypothesis (lack of access to healthy foods leads to eating unhealthy foods which leads to obesity) becomes a large experiment before research is done to determine if it is going to work. WaPo: Will Philadepphia’s experiment in eradicating food deserts

Last month, at the Weight of the Nation conference, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took the hypothesis one step further elevating food deserts into a cause of obesity. She said, “Obesity can be caused by any combination of factors.  For some it’s an addiction like smoking.  For others it’s a lack of fresh fruits or vegetables near their home. “ This is pretty sloppy work for a conference so highly organized by the CDC and HHS. An addiction? Still being researched I believe. People are looking at whether certain foods may be “addictive” not whether excess adipose tissue itself is addictive. When a national health leader elevates putative causes like addiction and food deserts to actual causes, a disservice is done and real progress is delayed.

 

Does Air Pollution Cause Obesity?

May 19th, 2012 No comments »

An interesting new study is out showing a link between pregnant mothers exposure to common air pollutants and the development of their child. Read more…

Air Pollutants Linked to Childhood Obesity

May 19th, 2012 No comments »

Exposure to air pollution while in the womb may contribute to childhood obesity, according to a study just published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by Andrew Rundle. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are common air pollutants caused by burning coal, oil, gas and cigarette smoke.

The study followed 700 pregnant women in New York City who were African-American or Dominican and lived in relatively poor areas of the city. Pregnant women with high exposures had children who were 1.8 times more likely to be obese at 5 years of age and 2.3 times more likely to be obese at 7 years than children with lower levels of exposure. PubMed: Air pollutants and Obesity

USAToday Coverage of IOM Recommendations

May 8th, 2012 1 comment »

Multiple strategies needed to fight obesity, study suggests

By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY

Updated 1h 12m ago

WASHINGTON – Taming the obesity epidemic in this country needs an all-hands-on-deck strategy so that schools provide students 60 minutes of physical activity daily, fast-food restaurants offer healthier fare for kids, and communities build recreational spaces that encourage physical activity, says a new report out Tuesday. 

  • A new report recommends kids have 60 minutes of active time per day.By Reed Saxon, APA new report recommends kids have 60 minutes of active time per day.

By Reed Saxon, AP

A new report recommends kids have 60 minutes of active time per day.

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It’s going to take “bold actions” like these and a full-scale effort across all segments of society to reduce the obesity epidemic, says the report from experts convened by theInstitute of Medicine, which provides independent advice on health issues to policy makers, foundations and others.

The goals and some of the strategies were presented here at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Weight of the Nation” meeting, where experts are discussing ideas for the prevention and control of obesity.

Currently, two-thirds of adults and a third of children in the USA are overweight or obese, government statistics show. Another study out Monday predicted that as many as 42% of adults may be obese, roughly 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight, by 2030 if actions aren’t taken to reverse the trend.

Extra weight takes a huge toll on health increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, many types of cancer, sleep apnea and other debilitating and chronic illnesses, and it costs billions of dollars in extra medical expenditures.

The Institute of Medicine committee reviewed more than 800 obesity prevention recommendations to pinpoint the most effective ones.

The report says there is no one answer to this problem, but it’s going to require bringing all the pieces together — the schools, the workplace, health care providers, says Dan Glickman, chairman of the institute committee and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “There are no magic bullets in here, but this report puts it all together.”

The illnesses and costs associated with obesity are spiraling out of control, he says. “If we don’t address this comprehensively, it will basically take us down as a society.”

M. R. C. Greenwood, vice chairwoman of the committee and president of the University of Hawaiisystem, says, “Many people will probably say ‘what’s new’ and what’s new is the clear statement that we must begin to attack this problem collectively on all fronts. It’s a massive problem unlike anything we have ever tackled before.”

Here are the five goals and a some strategies suggested for achieving them:

Make it easier for people to work physical activity into their daily lives. For instance, people need to have safe places to be active including trails, parks, playgrounds and community recreation centers.

Create an environment where healthy food and beverage options are the routine, easy choice.

Fast-food and chain restaurants could revise menus to make sure at least half of their kids’ meals comply with government’s dietary guidelines for moderately active 4- to 8-year-olds, and that those meals are moderately priced.

Businesses, governments and others should adopt policies to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages including making clean water available in public places, work sites and recreation areas.

Improve messages about physical activity and nutrition.

The food, beverage, restaurant and media industries should take voluntary action to adopt nutritionally based standards for marketing aimed at children and adolescents, ages 2-17. If those standards aren’t adopted within two years by the majority of companies, then local, state and federal policymakers should consider setting mandatory nutritional standards for marketing to this age group.

Expand the role of health care providers, insurers and employers in obesity prevention.

Employers should provide access to healthy foods at work and offer opportunities for physical activity as part of their wellness/health promotion programs.

All health care providers should adopt standards of practice for preventing, screening, diagnosing and treating people who are overweight or obese.

Make schools a national focal point for obesity prevention.

Students should have nutrition education throughout their school years, and kids in kindergarten through 12th grade should have the chance to engage in a total of 60 minutes of physical activity each school day. This should include participation in quality physical education.

“There’s so much to do, and the country is still doing so little,” says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based consumer group. “It seems heartless that we’re abandoning two-thirds of the American population to obesity-related diseases.”

There are lots of ways for students to get an hour of physical activity during the school day including recess, PE, walking and biking to school, classroom activities and after-school sports, Wootan says. “Kids need a chance to run around in order to sit still and learn in the classroom.”

When it comes to food marketing to kids, “companies claim to be taking meaningful action, but still the overwhelming majority of food ads aimed at kids are for unhealthy foods,” she says.

“What industry says is healthy to market to kids is not what most parents and health professionals think is healthy.”

Not everyone is convinced that the actions outlined in the report will make a dent in the obesity problem. “The literature in evaluating interventions like these shows weak effectiveness at best,” says Morgan Downey, editor and publisher of the downeyobesityreport.com. “So rather than evaluate the strategies’ effectiveness, they (the committee members) are just shouting them even louder.”

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Posted 11h 11m ago | Updated 1h 12m ago

 

The Built Environment

September 27th, 2009 No comments »

Understanding the Relationship between Activity an…[BMC Public Health. 2009] – PubMed Result

Prevalence, trends and environmental influences on…[Med Sport Sci. 2007] – PubMed Result

Built Environments and Obesity in Disadvantaged Po…[Epidemiol Rev. 2009] – PubMed Result

Neighborhood environments: disparities in access t…[Am J Prev Med. 2009] – PubMed Result

Physical environmental correlates of childhood obe…[Obes Rev. 2009] – PubMed Result