Environment Explains Obesity

Tara Haelle examines the growing consensus among scientists that environmental factors, rather than genes or sloth, are the primary cause of childhood obesity. The onus is on planners and policy makers to create environments that nurture health.
April 15, 2013, 10am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"New evidence is confirming that the environment kids live in has a greater impact than factors such as genetics, insufficient physical activity or other elements in efforts to control child obesity," reports Haelle. "Three new studies, published in the April 8 Pediatrics, land on the import of the 'nurture' side of the equation and focus on specific circumstances in children's or teen's lives that potentially contribute to unhealthy bulk."

"The environmental factors in these studies range from the seemingly minor, such as kids' plate sizes, to bigger challenges, such as school schedules that may keep teens from getting sufficient sleep," she notes. "But they are part of an even longer list: the ubiquity of fast food, changes in technology, fewer home-cooked meals, more food advertising, an explosion of low-cost processed foods and increasing sugary drink serving sizes (pdf) as well as easy access to unhealthy snacks in vending machines, at sports games and in nearly every setting children inhabit—these are just a handful of environmental factors research has linked to increasing obesity, and researchers are starting to pick apart which among them play bigger or lesser roles in making kids supersized."

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Published on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 in Scientific American
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