HYDERABAD: Do the chances of getting lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, also depend on the neighbourhood where one lives? According to a recently-published study, your chances of getting a lifestyle disease might be linked to the density of vendors selling fruits and vegetables and processed foods, in the neighbourhood where you actually live.
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with the Public Health Foundation of India and the National Institute of Nutrition, conducted a study to check for a connection between the health of people and the density of vendors in their neighbourhoods selling highly-processed food, take-away food, fruits and vegetables. As many as 5,764 people from the peri-urban area of Hyderabad were part of the longitudinal study.
The researchers found that a higher density of fruit-and-vegetable vendors within 400 m of people’s households was associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure. People living in such areas witnessed a decrease in fasting glucose of 0.14 mg/dl, a decrease in systolic blood pressure by 0.09 mmHg, and in diastolic blood pressure by 0.10 mmHg.
However, a higher density of vendors selling highly-processed or take-away food was found to be associated with negative impacts on people’s health — higher Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
While this is the first-of-its-kind study in India, such research assessing the connection between food availability in a neighbourhood and risk of lifestyle diseases has been conducted in other countries.
A study conducted in the United Kingdom involving as many as 3,47,551 participants by the UK Biobank reported that an increase in the density of ready-to-eat food outlets and a decrease in distance to the nearest ready-to-eat food outlet, were associated with a higher risk of type-2 diabetes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Reduced fruit and vegetable consumption is linked to poor health and increased risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).
Easy access to fruits and veggies is key
A higher density of fruit-and-vegetable vendors within 400 m of people’s households was associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, while a higher density of take-away-food vendors was linked to negative health impacts, the study found