Exposure to green spaces could lower the risk of metabolic syndrome

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) found that long-term exposure to residential green spaces may have health benefits for metabolic syndrome. The findings appeared in Environmental Pollution.

Metabolic syndrome, affecting nearing 24 percent of adults in the U.S., is a cluster of disorders which includes hypertension, high blood sugar, and obesity. Together, they are a major risk factor for diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

In the study, researchers investigated any health benefits between residing near green spaces and the risk of metabolic syndrome. They analyzed the data of 6,076 participants, aged 46 to 69, from the Whitehall II study, conducted between 1997 and 2013.

“Long-term exposure to greenspace was assessed by satellite-based indices of greenspace including Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Vegetation Continuous Field (VCF) averaged across buffers of 500 and 1000 m surrounding the participants’ residential location at each follow-up,” according to the findings.

“The ascertainment of metabolic syndrome was based on the World Health Organization (WHO) definition. Hazard ratios for metabolic syndrome were estimated using Cox proportional hazards regression models, controlling for age, sex, ethnicity, lifestyle factors, and socioeconomic status.”

Based on the findings, it was determined that long-term exposure to green spaces could, in fact, be beneficial in preventing metabolic syndrome.

“Higher residential surrounding greenspace was associated with lower risk of metabolic syndrome,” the study’s co-authors concluded. “Greater exposure to greenspace was also associated with each individual component of metabolic syndrome, including a lower risk of high levels of fasting glucose, large waist circumference, high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol, and hypertension.”

“The findings of the present study suggest that middle-aged and older adults living in greener neighbourhoods are at lower risk of metabolic syndrome than those living in neighbourhoods with less greenspace.”