Investigating environmental determinants of diet, physical activity, and overweight among adults in Sao Paulo, Brazil

J Urban Health. 2011 Jun;88(3):567-81. doi: 10.1007/s11524-010-9537-2.


There is worldwide recognition that the burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and obesity-related health problems is rapidly increasing in low- and middle-income countries. Environmental determinants of obesity are likely to differ between countries, particularly in those undergoing rapid socioeconomic and nutrition transitions such as Brazil. This study aims to describe some built environment and local food environment variables and to explore their association with the overweight rate and diet and physical activity area-level aggregated indicators of adults living in the city of Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. This formative study includes an ecological analysis of environmental factors associated with overweight across 31 submunicipalities of the city of Sao Paulo using statistical and spatial analyses. Average prevalence of overweight was 41.69% (95% confidence interval 38.74, 44.64), ranging from 27.14% to 60.75% across the submunicipalities. There was a wide geographical variation of both individual diet and physical activity, and indicators of food and built environments, favoring wealthier areas. After controlling for area socioeconomic status, there was a positive correlation between regular fruits and vegetables (FV) intake and density of FV specialized food markets (r = 0.497; p < 0.001), but no relationship between fast-food restaurant density and overweight prevalence was found. A negative association between overweight prevalence and density of parks and public sport facilities was seen (r = -0.527; p < 0.05). Understanding the relationship between local neighborhood environments and increasing rates of poor diet, physical activity, and obesity is essential in countries undergoing rapid economic and urban development, such as Brazil, in order to provide insights for policies to reduce increasing rates of NCDs and food access and health inequalities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environment Design*
  • Female
  • Food Supply / standards
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics / classification*
  • Social Class
  • Transportation / methods
  • Transportation / statistics & numerical data