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August 8, 2011 / Omar J. Peters

The Obesogenic City

Today’s cities are making us fat – they’re Obesogenic. A recent study out of Toronto finds that the characteristic of the built environment can have damaging effects on people’s health by causing obesity and, in turn, diabetes. The Globe and Mail reports on the study:

A poor diet, high in saturated fat and low on fruits and vegetables, causes excess weight. […] A sedentary lifestyle fuels the problem. That’s why some medical researchers and health offices are joining forces with urban planners to design neighbourhoods that are more conducive to activity.

Healthy eating combined with increases in physical exercise – walking with the kids to school or biking to the cinema – would help to mitigate the rise in the prevalence of obesity over the last two decades.

Further exacerbating the problem is bad access to healthy foods in cities – food deserts.

But there’s hope. The Times Online reports that

Oslo in Norway is an example of a “slim city”, where the built environment is structured to discourage car use and encourage walking and cycling. Urban planning in the Netherlands and Denmark has also incorporated more physical activity in daily lives, lowering obesity rates.

— 60 per cent of all journeys made by Dutch people aged over 60 are by bike.

— 10.4 per cent of Dutch men and 10.1 per cent of women aged 20-60 are obese. In England, 24.9 per cent of males and 25.2 per cent of women over 16 are obese [in US: About one-third of adults (33.8%) are obese]

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