Earlier this months a new systematic review study was published that I co-authored. Dr. Katrina Giskes of the School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia was first authors. The review was conducted as part of the Health promotion through Obesity Prevention in Europe (HOPE) project, a European Commission supported study in its 6th framework program.
The review examined whether physical, social, cultural and economical environmental factors (see the ANGELO model for a framework in which these different environmental factors are described) are associated with obesogenic dietary behaviours and overweight/obesity among adults. Literature searches of the most relevant databases of scientific literature identified original studies examining the different environmental factors and their associations with consumption of energy, fat, fibre, fruit, vegetables, sugar-sweetened drinks, meal patterns and weight status. Twenty-eight studies were selected; the majority (16) of these studies were conducted in the USA. Being overweight or obese was consistently associated with the food environment; greater accessibility to supermarkets or less access to takeaway outlets were associated with a lower BMI or lower prevalence of overweight/obesity. However, obesogenic dietary behaviours did not mirror these associations; mixed associations were found between the environment and obesogenic dietary behaviours. Living in a socioeconomically-deprived area was the only environmental factor consistently associated with a number of obesogenic dietary behaviours. Associations between the environment and weight status appear to be more consistent than that seen between the environment and dietary behaviours. The environment may play an important role in the development of overweight/obesity, however the dietary mechanisms that contribute to this remain unclear and the physical activity environment is also likely to play an important role in weight gain, overweight and obesity.