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Assessment of dietary patterns, physical activity and obesity among older US adults

Obesity in older adults results in premature declines in physical and mental health and cognitive functioning. Evidence shows that the incidence of obesity and chronic diseases are higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Furthermore, more older adults are concentrated in these rural areas. There is limited understanding of the behavioural factors driving increases in obesity in older adults in rural communities. Specifically, if differences in dietary behaviour between rural and urban settings contribute to elevated obesity rates. A study recently published in in PLOS One set out to firstly assess rural-urban differences in obesity rates in older adults, and secondly the relationship with dietary patterns.

Researchers used census data in a sample of respondents aged 65 years of age and above from the USA. Regression models were utilized to investigate if rural-urban disparities in obesity, and associations with risk factors of fruit consumption, green vegetable consumption and physical activity. The results revealed, consistent with earlier evidence, that obesity rates were highest in rural areas. In these rural areas, fruit consumption was the lowest. A negative association between obesity and fruit and green vegetable consumption was observed in urban but not rural settings. These findings illustrate the importance of considering urban-rural status when developing obesity prevention programs and strategies. Interventions need to address the unique barriers experienced between the two settings.

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