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Healthier Neighborhoods Help Keep Diabetes at Bay
Quality of local food stores and parks influences risk, research shows


(HealthDay News) -- People who live in neighborhoods that promote physical activity and offer access to healthy foods may be less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, researchers say.

Their study included 2,285 people, aged 45 to 84, living in neighborhoods in Baltimore, Forsyth County, N.C., and New York City/Bronx. Their neighborhoods were assessed by asking residents questions, such as whether it's easy or pleasant to walk in their community, and whether local stores carry a large, high-quality selection of fruits, vegetables and other low-fat foods. Average neighborhood scores were 3.68 for physical activity and 3.36 for healthy foods, the researchers found.

At the midpoint of five years of follow-up, 233 (10.2 percent) of the study participants had developed type 2 diabetes, the study authors reported.

"Better neighborhood resources, determined by a combined score for physical activity and healthy foods, were associated with a 38 percent lower incidence of type 2 diabetes. The association remained statistically significant after further adjustment for individual dietary factors, physical activity level and body mass index," wrote Amy H. Auchincloss, of Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia, and colleagues.

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the United States has steadily increased over the past 30 years. Identifying and modifying neighborhood traits that may affect diabetes risk could prove helpful.

"Current efforts to foster health-promoting environments include designing and modifying physical environments, such as zoning residential neighborhoods to require safe sidewalks, creating parks and attractive public green spaces and improving public transportation so that residents rely less on their cars; supporting fresh-food farmers' markets in low-income, urban neighborhoods; and assisting stores in those neighborhoods in improving their selection of healthy foods," the researchers wrote.

"There is unlikely to be a panacea for the obesity epidemic and rising epidemic of type 2 diabetes. However, altering our environments so that healthier behaviors and lifestyles can be easily chosen may be one of the key steps in arresting and reversing these epidemics," they concluded.

The study appears in the Oct. 12 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about type 2 diabetes.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Oct. 12, 2009

Last Updated: Oct. 12, 2009

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