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Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2012;73:113-21. doi: 10.1159/000341306. Epub 2012 Oct 29.

The importance of the food and physical activity environments.

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University Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, Department of Nutrition, Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital (AP-HP), Center for Research on Human Nutrition Ile-de-France (CRNH IdF), Paris, France.


There is increasing interest in identifying characteristics of neighborhood environments (physical, social, economical) that might favor unhealthy dietary and physical activity patterns leading to excess weight at population level. Measurement of characteristics of the physical environment in relation to food and physical activity has greatly improved in recent years. Methods based on assessment of perceptions by residents of their neighborhood or on objective assessment of the actual built environment (such as provided by Geographic Information Systems tools) would benefit to be combined. A number of recent systematic reviews have updated our knowledge on relationships of food and physical activity environments with relevant behaviors and obesity. Available evidence appears to show more consistent evidence of association between built environment characteristics related to physical activity ('walkability' indices, land use mix, variety of transports. . .) with physical activity behavior than with weight status. In contrast, built environment characteristics related to food habits (accessibility to different types of food outlets, availability of healthy foods. . .) would be more consistently associated with weight status than with eating behavior. The need for data from different countries and cultures is emphasized, as much as the importance of transdisciplinary research efforts for translation of these findings into our living environment.

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