Verdant Nation

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An investigation into how the obesity epidemic and our environmental woes may be interwoven societal problems.

Megan Carter
24 posts

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  • September 16, 2013
  • 09:58 PM

The science of scientific reporting - we suck at communicating our results to the public

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

One of my favourite PhD comics is "The Science News Cycle." I think it adequately portrays one of science's fundamental flaws, communicating research findings to Joe Public. Or, in the case of the comic, grandma.Knowledge exchange. Even the phrase is jargon. As researchers, we don't do it very well. We write up our research for the scientific community with the ultimate goal of publishing articles in scientific journals, and of course, eventually the Lancet or The New England Journal o........ Read more »

Government Office for Science. (2007) Tackling Obesities: Future Choices – Project Report 2nd Edition . FORESIGHT Programme. info:/

  • January 12, 2013
  • 01:30 PM

On Obesity Panacea: Measuring change in child weight status in relation to local environmental factors

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

Just recently a colleague and friend of mine, Travis Saunders, asked me to guest post on his blog: Obesity Panacea - a highly cited obesity blog, hosted by the Public Library of Science Blog Network. The post highlights a portion of my PhD work investigating how change in child weight status relates to local environmental factors. You can access the post here. The papers on which my post focus on can be found below. Carter MA, Dubois L, Tremblay MS, & Taljaard M (2012). The Influen........ Read more »

Carter MA, Dubois L, Tremblay MS, & Taljaard M. (2012) The Influence of Place on Weight Gain during Early Childhood: A Population-Based, Longitudinal Study. Journal of urban health : bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine. PMID: 22806452  

  • November 20, 2012
  • 10:38 PM

The precautionary principal in the garden of obesogens

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

Creative Commons imageToday's post is a follow-up to the previous post on the pervasiveness of environmental contaminants and pollutants and the potential link to obesity, particularly in utero. As I left off, much research remains to be conducted to definitively link specific industrial chemicals (known endocrine disruptors), which are highly prevalent in our society, to obesity.The precautionary principal is used to protect public health and has various interpretations. In general, i........ Read more »

Weir E, Schabas R, Wilson K, & Mackie C. (2010) A Canadian framework for applying the precautionary principle to public health issues. Canadian journal of public health. Revue canadienne de sante publique, 101(5), 396-8. PMID: 21214055  

  • October 19, 2012
  • 10:09 PM

Pervasiveness of environmental contaminants: what does this mean for obesity?

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

Everybody knows that obesity results from energy in being greater than energy out, right? Okay, we know that it's a lot more complex than that, but what if obesity could arise separate from this? We're pretty wedded to the idea that diet and physical activity are major risk factors, so it may be a little disconcerting to learn that a new body of research suggests that being exposed to "obesogens," chemicals in the environment (usually man-made), may program us to be fat. In this first post, I wi........ Read more »

Holtcamp, W. (2012) Obesogens: An Environmental Link to Obesity. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(2). DOI: 10.1289/ehp.120-a62  

  • June 6, 2012
  • 10:24 AM

Is cooking the silver bullet to the obesity epidemic?

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

Microsoft Office ImageMany writers (e.g. Mark Bittman), journalists, researchers, scientists, and celebrity chefs (e.g Jamie Oliver), believe that if people cooked more, obesity wouldn't be such a big issue. While I agree with this observation generally and feel that it could probably be good for the environment too, I don't think it is something that on its own could ever be effective in our capitalist society.First, how can cooking our own meals help the obesity epidemic? Meals and snacks........ Read more »

Bezerra, I., Curioni, C., & Sichieri, R. (2012) Association between eating out of home and body weight. Nutrition Reviews, 70(2), 65-79. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00459.x  

Troy LM, Miller EA, & Olson S. (2011) Hunger and Obesity: Understanding a Food Insecurity Paradigm: Workshop Summary. Institute of Medicine. info:/

  • April 30, 2012
  • 03:48 PM

Does a randomized social experiment shed light on the link between neighborhoods and obesity?

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

It’s pretty hard to determine if residential characteristics influence the development of obesity. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but one I want to focus on is the research design of the study. Most research in this area has been cross-sectional (looking at one point in time only).  The problem with these studies is that we have no idea what came first, the neighborhood characteristic or obesity. There is also the issue of self-selection. Certain people may prefer to live in certa........ Read more »

Ludwig J, Sanbonmatsu L, Gennetian L, Adam E, Duncan GJ, Katz LF, Kessler RC, Kling JR, Lindau ST, Whitaker RC.... (2011) Neighborhoods, obesity, and diabetes--a randomized social experiment. The New England journal of medicine, 365(16), 1509-19. PMID: 22010917  

  • October 13, 2011
  • 05:11 PM

Am I single-handedly perpetuating the negative effects of food insecurity?

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

CC Image: Franco Folini Now I am not generally one to give money to a pan-handler. If I do give something, it’s generally a snack (usually healthy) if I have one on me. This has been met with different responses: scorn, indifference or thankfulness.  I have offered a few times to go and buy these pan-handlers something to eat or drink but have never been take up on the offer, until today.  I regret though, that I may have contributed to, not helped the problem of food insecurity........ Read more »

Pilgrim A, Barker M, Jackson A, Ntani G, Crozier S, Inskip H, Godfrey K, Cooper C, Robinson S, & SWS Study Group. (2011) Does living in a food insecure household impact on the diets and body composition of young children? Findings from the Southampton Women's Survey. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. info:/10.1136/jech.2010.125476

  • September 30, 2011
  • 01:22 PM

Evaluating urban planning initiatives to increase active transportation

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

Urban planning and epidemiology need to become better friends. Rigorous epidemiological studies that assess the health impacts of urban planning interventions are desperately needed. These studies can more reliably tell us what works and what doesn’t, and therefore where best to put our hard-earned tax dollars. I’m not sure why they are lacking. Money? Time? I guess they are all good excuses. But in the grand scheme of things, I would settle for even just a simple before-after study – some........ Read more »

  • September 21, 2011
  • 10:30 PM

Behavioral economics - a way to fight Big Food?

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

Eating that double-fudge brownie or entire bag of chips ultimately comes down to individual choice. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that we are not really free to choose – our choices arise from opportunities or barriers that are structured in large part by the places in which we live, work, play, or go to school. The abundance of ultra-processed, energy –dense, nutrient-poor foods that are readily available, heavily marketed, cheap, and tasty, presents a large barrier to........ Read more »

Just D.R.,, & Wansink B,. (2009) Smarter Lunchrooms: Using Behavioral Economics to Improve Meal Selection. Choices:The Magazine of Food, Farm, and Resource Issues, 24(3). info:/

  • September 1, 2011
  • 03:56 PM

Are tightly-knit communities best for obesity prevention?

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

I am re-posting a guest-post that I wrote in June for my friend and colleague, Travis Saunders, on his blog: 'Obesity Panacea'. I was too lazy then to put the whole thing up on my own blog...Alas, I've come back to it as potential thesis material, so have decided to take the two minutes to format it. You can also view the original post here. I am hoping that researchers and the public at large are starting to get past the ‘blame the victim’ perspective of obesity. True, choice and prefe........ Read more »

  • August 23, 2011
  • 02:57 PM

Safety and biking infrastructure - segregated vs marked bike lanes

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

Hopefully I will be back to a more or less regular blog posting schedule now that I am back from my trip overseas. I went to Dublin (Ireland) and Edinburgh (Scotland) for a few weeks of vacation and a couple days of conferencing.  I was lucky enough to get to do some biking both inside and outside of the city (the city being Edinburgh). Today’s post is more of a reflection on biking culture and infrastructure in Ireland and Scotland versus here in Canada. I was only there for a short........ Read more »

  • July 25, 2011
  • 01:04 PM

Urban agriculture - where's the evidence?

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

One potential way to combat the obesity epidemic and environmental degradation all in the same go is urban agriculture. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, wondering if it is feasible in climates like New York City and Toronto, if it can actually generate enough food to continuously feed a city, and of course, also improve diet quality at a population-level.Urban agriculture refers to agricultural practices (usually intensive) within and around cities that compete for resources such as........ Read more »

Pearson, L., Pearson, L., & Pearson, C. (2010) Sustainable urban agriculture: stocktake and opportunities. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 8(1), 7-19. DOI: 10.3763/ijas.2009.0468  

  • July 12, 2011
  • 10:41 AM

Some musings on sustainability and obesity: focusing on BOTH physical activity & diet needed

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

There is no disputing that diet and physical inactivity are contributors to the obesity epidemic. A recent debate involving Drs Yoni Freedhoff and Bob Ross showed that both are important (I don’t think there was consensus in the audience as to who won). What I want to highlight in this post is that, from a sustainability perspective (see my previous post for a definition), it is a moot point to argue over the relative importance of each.Our food system has changed dramatically over the la........ Read more »

  • June 28, 2011
  • 01:33 PM

Increasing fruit & veggie intake - the why and the how

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

Today’s post focuses on why you should eat yer fruits and vegetables, and how we may be able to get more of us to do so.  At a population level, the evidence for increasing fruit and vegetable (F&V) consumption and decreasing obesity isn’t super strong [1]. But I still think that it’s at the heart of how to make a healthy population – coupled of course, with decreasing intake of crappy, energy dense, nutrient poor snack foods and sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as growing food in sus........ Read more »

Ledoux TA, Hingle MD, & Baranowski T. (2011) Relationship of fruit and vegetable intake with adiposity: a systematic review. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 12(5). PMID: 20633234  

  • May 25, 2011
  • 01:01 PM

Why should we become more engaged in civil society? For health, that's why!

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

I am an intense believer in the social determinants of health and looking at health problems through a social-ecological lens (i.e. determinants of health exist at multiple social levels of influence and are not just attributable to the individual or to the healthcare system). I think this is why I’ve also gotten incredibly interested in politics – from this perspective, government policies can influence population and environmental health.  An interesting social determinant of health, ........ Read more »

  • May 9, 2011
  • 04:43 PM

Home cookin', leftovers, and your health

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

Home cooking is where it’s at. In my view, getting people to cook at home with wholesome foods is one way to combat the obesity epidemic.  And of course, home cooked meals *can* taste great; that’s chef-dependent of course. Foods prepared outside of the home are higher in calories, fat, and sodium, and a recent meta-analysis found that children and adolescents who eat shared family meals at least 3 times per week are less likely to be overweight or eat unhealthy foods than children who eat ........ Read more »

Quested T, & Johnson H. (2009) Household Food and Drink Waste in the UK. WRAP. info:/

  • May 2, 2011
  • 08:51 PM

Part 2 Building Design: Fooling people into taking the stairs

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

I just got back from a conference in Montreal – one on obesity at that. The hotel, the location for the conference, held sessions on floors 1-4 and on sub floors below the lobby – ample opportunity to use the stairs.  There were two main problems: 1) the stairs were confusing – you’d get up to one floor but then couldn’t find the next set of stairs to the next floor and have to walk quite a distance to get to them; and 2) there were escalators in between these floors in plain sigh........ Read more »

Bloomberg MR, Burney D, Farley T, Sadik-Khan J, & Burden A. (2010) Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design. City of New York. info:/

  • April 25, 2011
  • 09:50 AM

Part 1: Building design to increase physical activity

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

We all know that we are not getting enough physical activity these days. In fact, 52% of Canadian adults 20 years of age or older are considered inactive, and 88% of children aged 5-19 years don’t meet Canada’s physical activity guidelines. It’s one out of many reasons why the prevalence of overweight and obesity is so high. But physical activity has other health benefits, in addition to staving off obesity and cardiovascular disease, such as reducing stress and improvi........ Read more »

Nocon M, Muller-Riemenschneider F, Nitzschke K, & Willich SN. (2010) Increasing physical activity with point-of-choice prompts -- a systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 633-38. info:/

  • April 13, 2011
  • 02:51 PM

Battle of the bike lanes - in NYC and now Ottawa-Gatineau?

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

Hat tip to Atif who brought this story to my attention this past November.  Over the last three years the Bloomberg administration has created over 200 miles of bike lanes and passed several bicycle friendly laws. This has been to the detriment of infrastructure supporting car use. To me, this is great news but to others that have a special attachment to their cars, or fear delivery trucks won’t be able to make their morning deliveries, this is terrible news. A similar story is starting t........ Read more »

  • April 4, 2011
  • 05:11 PM

Is green good for our health?

by Megan Carter in Verdant Nation

Is being in a ‘green’ environment good for our health and well-being? Are we starved of this connection with nature? Richard Louv thinks so, author and chairman of the Children and Nature Network.  He has coined the term ‘nature-deficit disorder’ to reflect the psychological, physical and cognitive repercussions of our lack of contact with nature, especially among children in their vulnerable developing years.  Although Mr Louv specifies that this is not a formal diagnosis........ Read more »

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