People in Less Walkable Neighbourhood Develop Diabetes

First Posted: Sep 18, 2012 06:11 AM EDT

It is known that maintain an ideal body weight and an active lifestyle helps in preventing diabetes. The researchers from St. Michael's Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences focus on this aspect and claim that risk of developing diabetes is high for immigrants who live in low income neighbourhoods.

According to the study, a new immigrant living in a less walkable neighborhood, fewer destinations within 10 minute walk, lower residential density and poorly connected streets are 50 percent more prone to develop diabetes when compared to people living in walkable areas irrespective of the neighbourhood income.

"Although diabetes can be prevented through physical activity, healthy eating and weight loss, we found the environment in which one lives is also an important indicator for determining risk," said Dr. Gillian Booth, an endocrinologist and researcher at St. Michael's and lead author of the study.

The details of this study were carried in online journal Diabetes Care on September 17.

"For new immigrants, environment is an especially important factor as past research has shown an accelerated risk of obesity-related conditions including diabetes within the first 10 years of arrival to Canada," said Booth, who is also an adjunct scientist at ICES.

The researchers notice the same trend in the industrialized area. This occurs to complete change in lifestyle on moving to an urban living. People often are associated with increased exposure to unhealthy foods, fewer opportunities for physical activity and this leads to risk of obesity and diabetes.

The data collected from the Toronto population who belonged to the age group 30-64. They kept a track on these subjects for five years to notice their risk of developing diabetes. They also developed an index looking at factors such as population density, street connectivity and the availability of walkable destinations such as retail stores and service within a 10-minute walk. This was done in order to determine which neighborhood was more conducive to walking.

Booth said, "Neighbourhoods that were the least walkable were often newly developed areas -- characterized by urban sprawl -- in part because of the reliance on cars caused by suburban design."

"Previous studies have looked at how walkable neighbourhoods affect health behaviour, but this is the first to look at the risk of developing a disease," said Booth.

Booth said, "The results emphasize the importance of neighbourhood design in influencing the health of urban populations."

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