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Thread: Obesity in America

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    Cyburbian nuovorecord's avatar
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    Obesity in America

    A study to be released in the Journal of the AMA tomorrow shows that it takes about 10-15 years after an immigrant moves to the US before they become a lard butt. This is but the latest in a series of reports indicating that America's lifestyle is unhealthy. In regards to the built environment portion of this problem, there is a consortium of various health, transportation and planning professionals working together in Oregon to promote "active communities." Are any of you doing something similar or working to incorporate this growing body (pun intended) of research into your work?

    If You Move to America, You May Get Fat
    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Published: December 14, 2004


    Filed at 6:17 p.m. ET

    CHICAGO (AP) -- Long-term exposure to American culture may be hazardous to immigrants' health. A new study found that obesity is relatively rare in the foreign-born until they have lived in the United States -- the land of drive-thrus, remote controls and double cheeseburgers -- for more than 10 years.

    Only 8 percent of immigrants who had lived in the United States for less than a year were obese, but that jumped to 19 percent among those who had been here for at least 15 years. That compared with 22 percent of U.S.-born residents surveyed.

    The study, published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, shows the flip side of the American dream of finding a better life in the land of plenty.

    ``Part of the American dream and sort of life of leisure is that you also have some of the negative effects, and obesity is one of the major side effects of the success of technology and just having a life of leisure,'' said co-author Dr. Christina Wee of Harvard Medical School. ``It's a double-edged sword.''

    Previous studies have shown that immigrants tend to have healthier habits, including less smoking and drug use, than U.S.-born residents, and longer life spans. Researchers suspect that is at least partly because those who choose to immigrate could be unusually healthy, since uprooting to another country requires strength and vitality. But the earlier studies did not look at how obesity rates among immigrants changed over time.

    The link between obesity and numbers of years in the United States was found in white, Hispanic and Asian immigrant groups. It was not seen in foreign-born blacks, but their numbers in the study were too small to draw any conclusions, said lead author Dr. Mita Sanghavi Goel of Northwestern University in Chicago.

    ``Trends in obesity among immigrants may reflect acculturation and adoption of the U.S. lifestyle, such as increased sedentary behavior and poor dietary patterns,'' they wrote. ``They may also be a response to the physical environment of the United States, with increased availability of calorically dense foods and higher reliance on labor-saving technologies.''

    Goel said it makes sense that exposure to America's fast-food culture would eventually rub off, but she said she was surprised by the magnitude of the change.

    The results are worrisome, particularly since immigrants often face a language barrier and other obstacles to good health care, the researchers said.

    While people tend to get heavier as they age, the study found that the weight gain in immigrants was above what would be expected from aging, Goel said.

    The study involved data on 32,374 participants in a 2000 national health survey, 14 percent of whom were immigrants. The study relied on what the participants reported about their weight.

    The study sends ``a sobering message,'' said Dr. Glenn Flores, director of a Medical College of Wisconsin center that treats minority and immigrant children.

    Flores said immigrants might do well to cling to healthy traditions such as diets rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber. And native-born Americans might want to adopt some of those ``foreign'' habits, too, he said.

    Obesity in the United States ``just isn't going to go away unless we rethink what we're doing,'' Flores said.

    ^------

    On the Net:

    JAMA: http://jama.ama-assn.org
    "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

  2. #2
         
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    people to tend to get less fit and pack on a couple of pounds as they age- so i could see why immigrants that have been in the u.s. for fifteen plus years would tend to be fatter. this study would hold more water if they broke it down by age group.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian nuovorecord's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boo
    people to tend to get less fit and pack on a couple of pounds as they age- so i could see why immigrants that have been in the u.s. for fifteen plus years would tend to be fatter. this study would hold more water if they broke it down by age group.
    The point is that the immigrants put on more weight than their age/gender counterparts in their native countries. NPR did a story on this this morning. Hear it right here
    "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

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    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    I have been saying that the design of our cities is responsible for obesity for quite awhile now. Everyone blames it on McDonald's but McDonalds is in a lot more countries than just the U.S. Not to mention all the other unhealthy foods eaten in other countries (Italy, etc.).

    Americans live in places that require you to drive everywhere you go. There is no need to walk. The only walking we do is from our house to our car, then from our car to the place we're going (after finding the parking spot closest to the entrance). People are more fit in other countries because they do a lot more walking.

    I've applied for a planning job that deals with pedestrian and cyclist routes throughout the city of Austin. While Austin has a very active population in the central/downtown area, the outer regions are just as unhealthy as any other place. I'm hoping to help change this in the future.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    I have long held that planning can do more than any other non-health related profession to combat obesity. We are starting to see peer reviewed articles in this vein, and I think that this is going to be the next big trend in planning.
    Maintaining enthusiasm in the face of crushing apathy.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    If I were....

    If I were Donald Rumsfeld, I would say something like......

    We live in a free country.....
    and people that live in a free country are free to do free things....
    like eat as many 0.50c apple pies from McDonalds as they wish
    some free people will freely "choose" to eat raw lard
    other free people can eat as much potato lefse as they can(for you Mich-UP types)
    This is what free people do, they are free....


    My short answer is that when you have the access to as much bad food as we do....people will eat it and get fat......I've been to Europe and didn't see a fraction of the fast food joints and the one's I saw were NOT drive through places.....in fact, can't remember seeing a drive through there....although its been a couple of years.....Same goes for Mexico and I'm guessing for Latin America......So to me, its the access to cheap high calorie and fatty foods that gets us in trouble....oh yeah and we don't seem to like to cook, or don't have time to cook......

    Speaking of time....we don't have any.....this country is well known for having one of the most highly productive workforces in the world......Can't expect that, plop millions of fast food joints in front of us and then say stop getting fat and working so hard........

    PHHEEEW.......(take breath.....)
    Skilled Adoxographer

  7. #7
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    We've been involved in the design of a few bike paths, one of which is under construction now, and another which should be funded soon for construction within the next year. That one will be the last segment of a path system that runs along old transport canals and extends over 60 miles.

    I've also noticed that the planners in some of the town's we've done work in are getting more sophisticated when it comes to designing for the pedestrian. A simplistic approach of parelleling the road with a 4' wide sidewalk doesn't cut it. You have to show that the walking routes have been thought out and crosswalks provided.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Planizzlator's avatar
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    There was an article about this subject printed in Planning magazine a couple years ago.......I forgot which issue it was in though.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    by and large this topic to date has been supported by junk science at best and there has been NO evidence from unbiased sources that our built environment is the cause of any weight gain or health issues.

    That is not to say that encouraging walkability in our developments should not be a priority, it should be.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Planizzlator's avatar
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    I'm ready.........super size me!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails super size me.jpg  

  11. #11

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    Have to say that I've noticed the lack of walking opportunities in my two brief visits to the US. Primary among these are the large retail parks, normally set out in ribbon form along some primary route. The times I've been to the US you can literaly see people drive to one store, then go in and come out and drive across the road/down the road 50 yards to the next shop.

    We have more and more retail parks in the UK which are set in clusters rather than ribbons; these normally have footpaths and sometimes cyclepaths, but this doesn't mean people are more likely to use them...

    And latest studies here suggest that the population of the Uk is beginning to catch you up (in obesity terms anyway).

    Have to add as a disclaimer that I've only been to the US three times, and have spent a sum total of probably 3 weeks in the country, so I'm hardly an expert.

  12. #12
          roger's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    by and large this topic to date has been supported by junk science at best and there has been NO evidence from unbiased sources that our built environment is the cause of any weight gain or health issues.

    That is not to say that encouraging walkability in our developments should not be a priority, it should be.
    I agree. It is first and foremost a lifestyle choice. Just because someone lives in a walkable area does not mean they will make healthy lifestyle decisions.

    Association doesn't necessarily equal causation.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian nuovorecord's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by roger
    I agree. It is first and foremost a lifestyle choice. Just because someone lives in a walkable area does not mean they will make healthy lifestyle decisions.

    Association doesn't necessarily equal causation.
    Whereas, not having walkable communities eliminates any choice citizens may have in the matter.
    "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

  14. #14
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nuovorecord
    Whereas, not having walkable communities eliminates any choice citizens may have in the matter.
    That is just nuts. If someone wants to walk, they will find a place to do it. In fact in colder climes, walking the mall may be a more inviting place than outside.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  15. #15
    Cyburbian nuovorecord's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    That is just nuts. If someone wants to walk, they will find a place to do it. In fact in colder climes, walking the mall may be a more inviting place than outside.
    It's not a question of people just wanting to go for a walk for some exercise. It's a matter of them not having a choice in how they go to the grocery store for a loaf of bread and a half-gallon of milk. Or to go to a coffee shop, bank, library, etc. Are you really telling me that people are choosing not to walk when they increasingly are living in suburban neighborhoods where the closest services require a five mile walk along and across 6-lane arterials??? Who would choose to walk under those conditions? Give me a break. I believe that people make their own choices, in where they live, what they eat, and how much they exercise. But why should we allow communities to develop in such a manner that some people's choice whether to walk to services is an easy one to make, while others face a much more difficult choice and less attractive options? Why must suburban development remove transportation choices for the public? And I'm sorry, the mall doesn't constitute a walkable community!
    "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

  16. #16

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    I think the skeptics are missing the point: Sure, people who are engaged in a fitness program will find places to walk. But, the French, for example, are not thinner because they spend more time "working out." They are thinner because their daily lives require/make possible more exercize as a normal compnent of daily life, not as a dreaded half hour on the treadmill, but as a nice stroll downtown. (Plus, they eat much smaller portions than us gluttons do)

    One problem with American suburbanism today is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to do most daily errands as a pedestrian. It is hostile in places without sidewalks to walk to work, or the store (even if the local store had not been replaced by a more efficient shiny big box store three miles away). Our cities and our economy make a pedestrian-oriented lifestyle impossible. Unless you are the maid waiting for the loser cruiser.

    Compare this to a place where the opposite is true. It is a pain in the neck to live an auto-centric life in the City of San Francisco. Parking is tight. People walk more-although recent trends are not promising.

    I don't know the answer, because a few sidewalks and zoning code changes won't overcome the vast scale of modern American life. Only the Hubbert Peak will do that-to our great sadness and demise.

    Edit: I see, nuevorecord, that you are having similar thoughts. Walking in boring, monoculture, sound wall and parking lot America sucks. That's one thing zoning and design regulations could change. Except there is no real incentive to do so.

  17. #17
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nuovorecord
    Are you really telling me that people are choosing not to walk when they increasingly are living in suburban neighborhoods where the closest services require a five mile walk along and across 6-lane arterials??? Who would choose to walk under those conditions? Give me a break. I believe that people make their own choices, in where they live, what they eat, and how much they exercise. But why should we allow communities to develop in such a manner that some people's choice whether to walk to services is an easy one to make, while others face a much more difficult choice and less attractive options? Why must suburban development remove transportation choices for the public? And I'm sorry, the mall doesn't constitute a walkable community!
    These same folks are buying the homes in these places, if the things you talked about mattered to them, there wouldn't be a problem.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    These same folks are buying the homes in these places, if the things you talked about mattered to them, there wouldn't be a problem.
    True. But, in many communities nuevorecord is right-there isn't much choice-especially if you want a newer house in that "good school district." And, as you note, there are many factors that play a major role in the decision to buy a home. If, however, you still believe that "the public interest" is a factor in "planning," that means we as professional planners should see one of our roles as guiding development so that it does provide this choice. In my area in Solano County, maybe 10% of the neighborhoods are mixed use and interesting enough to walk reasonable distances. The rest-its strip malls and parking lots, sound walls and four lane arterials and cul-de-sacs. Some of which our very own engineering standards require.

    Now, to return to my usual cynical self- this problem is more than physical form and zoning. Its economics (the big box cluster), its two income households. Its consolidated schools that you are afraid to let your kids walk to. The problem can't be solved by tweaking the Zoning Ordinance or even the public works standards.

  19. #19
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    True. But, in many communities nuevorecord is right-there isn't much choice-especially if you want a newer house in that "good school district." And, as you note, there are many factors that play a major role in the decision to buy a home. If, however, you still believe that "the public interest" is a factor in "planning," that means we as professional planners should see one of our roles as guiding development so that it does provide this choice. In my area in Solano County, maybe 10% of the neighborhoods are mixed use and interesting enough to walk reasonable distances. The rest-its strip malls and parking lots, sound walls and four lane arterials and cul-de-sacs. Some of which our very own engineering standards require.
    We should absolutly strive for better places. It's just that sometimes we come across as the know it all experts. Also many posts on this subject sound like all we need to do is create a bunch of utopias, and America will get skinny. I know we are all smart enough to know it is more complicated than that, but it doesn't sound like it sometimes. While our job is to make our places better, we cannot forget that we also represent citizens who my not agree with what we think they should want.



    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Now, to return to my usual cynical self- this problem is more than physical form and zoning. Its economics (the big box cluster), its two income households. Its consolidated schools that you are afraid to let your kids walk to. The problem can't be solved by tweaking the Zoning Ordinance or even the public works standards.

    The secret is to figure out how to change what the consumer wants
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  20. #20
    Cyburbian nuovorecord's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    We should absolutly strive for better places. It's just that sometimes we come across as the know it all experts. Also many posts on this subject sound like all we need to do is create a bunch of utopias, and America will get skinny. I know we are all smart enough to know it is more complicated than that, but it doesn't sound like it sometimes. While our job is to make our places better, we cannot forget that we also represent citizens who my not agree with what we think they should want. The secret is to figure out how to change what the consumer wants
    That's a good point. I agree with you that simply creating a walkable community doesn't guarantee that people will make the choice to avail themselves of the opportunity. But I think that it's our duty to act in the public interest and give people the choice in how they move around. There's no way we can stop them from eating every meal at Mickey D's, though.
    "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    I think the suburban connection to obesity is overstated. People who live in more urban areas tend to be younger... therefore in better shape.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
    Bill "Spaceman" Lee

  22. #22
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Can you imagine how much better this world would be without Fast Food?
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  23. #23
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Breed
    I think the suburban connection to obesity is overstated. People who live in more urban areas tend to be younger... therefore in better shape.
    You're assuming they didn't correct for mitigating factors like age.

    Maybe they didn't. I don't know because I haven't read the studies. But neither have you.

  24. #24
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Breed
    I think the suburban connection to obesity is overstated. People who live in more urban areas tend to be younger... therefore in better shape.

    I agree, there are a lot of other factors involved here.





    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    You're assuming they didn't correct for mitigating factors like age.

    Maybe they didn't. I don't know because I haven't read the studies. But neither have you.

    I know, and they did adjust for age and other factors. The study says that after folks live here for ten years they get fat. They don't say that it's because they live in the burbs, maybe they just get a taste for micky d's
    Last edited by giff57; 22 Dec 2004 at 3:44 PM.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  25. #25
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    The average joe wants to drive his comfortable car with his Bose 8 speaker system 2 blocks to the Walgreen's and 300 miles for lesuire.

    The average joe wants a 2,400sq ft 2-story vinyl box with easy garage access.

    The average joe wants cheap groceries, and cheap goods and doesn't care that he has to sacrifice service for price.

    The average joe wants a proven good school district, not an improving one

    The average joe wants a secure return on his property investment.

    The average joe looks at his home as an financial investment, not a community investment. To him, zoning only exists to prevent captial loss, not quality of life loss.

    The average joe wants to drive to a fitness center and exercise once there.

    The average joe wants free parking.

    The average joe wants total conveinence, low maintenance, and quick meals.

    The market has been giving the average joe exactly what he wants. Planning will work against the market until demands change. We're attempting to not only change living habits, but personal beliefs on finance, family life, social structures, environmental appreciation, architecture appreciation, and transportation. We're working in direct opposition of 50 years of advertising telling the average joe what he wants.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

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