In recent months, an expensive public relations campaign has been underway to demonstrate a significant connection between low-density, suburban (sprawling) development and the U.S. obesity epidemic. This blatant effort has taken modest (and debatable) research findings and exaggerated them into justification for seeking strong new land use controls in federal, state and local land use policy.
In fact, however, Americans today live little differently than they have for forty years. Household population densities are virtually unchanged since 1960. Urban population density has actually increased since 1980. Yet, the obesity explosion has occurred in the last decade or so --- a doubling in the 1990s. At the same time, there has been a significant increase in food consumption (caloric consumption). This led Ronald D. Utt, PhD. to suggest that it was the "hamburger" not the "house" that explains the nation's rising weight.
America's 10 to 15 year obesity crisis cannot be the result of urban development trends that have changed little since 1960.
Meanwhile, rising obesity is not a problem limited to the United States. It is rising rapidly in Canada, France, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.