People Who Live in Healthier Neighborhoods May Be Less Likely to Develop Type 2 Diabetes

Healthy NeighborhoodA new study indicates that people living in neighborhoods that promote physical activity and offer access to healthy foods may be less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Researchers studied 2,285 participants aged 45 to 84 living in neighborhoods in Baltimore, Forsyth County, N.C., and New York City/Bronx. These neighborhoods were evaluated for factors 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.

After two and a half years, 233 (10.2%) of the study participants had developed type 2 diabetes. Study authors found that people who lived in ‘healthier’ neighborhoods, as determined by a combined score for physical activity and healthy foods, had a 38% lower incidence of type 2 diabetes. This association remained even when adjusted for individual dietary factors, physical activity level and body mass index.

The study, which appears in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, indicates that identifying and modifying neighborhood traits that may affect diabetes risk could prove helpful in fighting the increase of diabetes cases in the U.S.

Researchers recommend encouraging healthy environments by:

  • zoning residential neighborhoods to require safe sidewalks, parks, and public green spaces
  • 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.

SOURCE: Neighborhood Resources for Physical Activity and Healthy Foods and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Auchincloss, et al, Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(18):1698-1704.