Friday, May 17, 2013

Greener neighborhood, bigger babies!

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,


My today's pick for the blog is about this new study from Spain that finds how pregnant women living in areas with more plants are trees gave birth to slightly heavier babies with slightly larger heads.  I find the study interesting but have to say that most of our Indian rural women live in healthier environments in so far as trees and air quality is concerned.  

However, we have the maximum number of infant mortality and early childhood mortality in villages.  This is because of several reasons including unavailability of dietary supplements to the natural food they eat.  Further, many poor women cannot even meet their basic ends and hence have no access to foods grown in their own villages. 

 Further, policy makers of this country consider a few kilograms of rice given at free or subsidized cost will help the poor survive. That is not enough.  For a country like India, protecting the natural vegetation and maintaining good ambient air quality is very much important.  

Also important is to see that people grow their own foods, vegetables and have sufficient forest foods/fruits available in their own locality.  Still important is to ensure that the same villagers/women who grow these foods and/or collect forest foods/fruits should have the ability to eat that.  In crux, local food production and distribution is more important.  

And in urban areas, we have to increase the forest cover and green spaces.

Look forward to your views on the study as well as my opinion.

Greener neighborhood, bigger babies.

Pregnant women living in areas with more plants and trees gave birth to slightly heavier babies with slightly larger heads, reports a new study from Spain. The results are among the first to show the benefits of green space for pregnancy outcomes and bolsters previous evidence linking green spaces to improved human health. The benefits may be higher for women of lower socioeconomic status.

Living in areas with more plants and vegetation during pregnancy may increase fetal growth but not the length of pregnancy, a new study from Spain reports.

On average, babies born to mothers living in "greener" areas – places covered with more plant life – had higher birth weights and slightly larger head circumference compared to babies whose mothers lived in areas with lower plant cover. Effects were stronger in women with lower education, suggesting increased benefits of green space in areas with lower socioeconomic status.

This is one of the first times that surrounding greenness has been linked to improved pregnancy outcomes. The results are important because low birth weight is linked to health problems in early life, as well as to longterm health effects such as cardiovascular disease.

The results give urban planners another reason to consider increasing green space in an effort to improve public health.

Researchers examined 2,393 pregnant women from four different birth groups from the Iberian Peninsula of Spain between 2003 and 2008. An index of “greenness” up to 500 meters around each woman’s home was generated using satellite images.

On average, babies born to moms living in areas with more plant cover were 1.5 ounces (44 grams) heavier and had head circumferences 0.05 to 0.07 inches (1.2 to 1.7 millimeters) larger than babies whose mothers lived in areas with less vegetation. The results were after taking into account maternal age, ethnicity, education level and other factors.

Head circumference is an indicator of brain size, which in turn is thought to affect IQ. The effects were strongest in babies born to moms with lower education, suggesting that increasing green space may have the most benefit in socioeconomically deprived areas. No effect was seen on length of pregnancy.

Green spaces are thought to improve health by increasing the physical activity of nearby residents, reducing stress and depression, increasing social contact, reducing noise and air pollution, and helping to regulate temperatures in urban areas. All of these factors may also improve pregnancy outcomes.

- Synopsis by Glenys Webster, May 16, 2013

Source: Dadvand, P, J Sunyer, X Basagaña, F Ballester, A Lertxundi, A Fernández-Somoano, M Estarlich, R García-Esteban, MA Mendez and NJ Nieuwenhuijsen. 2012 Surrounding greenness and pregnancy outcomes in four Spanish birth cohorts. Environmental Health Perspectives

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