-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- People with plots in
community gardens are less likely to be overweight or obese than
those who don't garden, a new study suggests.
"It has been shown previously that community gardens can provide a variety of social and nutritional benefits to neighborhoods," study author Cathleen Zick, a professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah, said in a university news release. "But until now, we did not have data to show a measurable health benefit for those who use the gardens."
She and her colleagues looked at the body-mass index (BMI) of
198 community gardeners in Salt Lake City and compared them to
non-gardening neighbors. BMI is a measurement of body fat based on
height and weight.
The BMI of female community gardeners was an average 1.84 points
lower than their neighbors, a difference of 11 pounds for a
5-foot-5 woman. The BMI of male community gardeners was 2.36 points
lower than their neighbors, a difference of 16 pounds for a man at
5 feet 10 inches.
Compared to nongardeners, the likelihood of being overweight or
obese was 62 percent lower for male gardeners and 46 percent lower
for female gardeners, according to the study appearing online April
18 in the
American Journal of Public Health.
The researchers also found that gardeners had lower BMIs than
their same-sex siblings. The average BMI was 1.88 lower for female
community gardeners compared to their sisters and 1.33 lower for
male community gardeners compared to their brothers.
There was no difference in BMI or the risk of being overweight
between married gardeners and their spouses. That is not surprising
because spouses would likely help out with gardening and benefit
from eating the healthy foods produced in the garden, the study
These findings support "the idea that community gardens are a
valuable neighborhood asset that can promote healthier living. That
could be of interest to urban planners, public health officials and
others focused on designing new neighborhoods and revitalizing old
ones," Zick said.
But while "these data are intriguing," she noted, "they were
drawn from participants in a single community gardening
organization in Salt Lake City and may not apply broadly until more
research is done."
And although the study found an association between gardening
and lower BMI, it did not prove a cause-and-effect
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers
gardening health and safety tips.
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