Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Individual and environmental factors associated for overweight in urban population of Brazil

Larissa L Mendes1*, Helena Nogueira24, Cristina Padez34, Maria Ferrao34 and Gustavo Velasquez-Melendez5

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Nutrição, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Juiz de Fora 36036-900, Brazil

2 Department of Geography, University of Coimbra, Largo da Porta Férrea, Coimbra 3004-530, Portugal

3 Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Coimbra 3004-530, Portugal

4 Research Centre for Anthropology and Health, University of Coimbra, Coimbra 3004-530, Portugal

5 Departamento de Enfermagem Materno-infantil em Saúde Pública, Escola de Enfermagem, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte 30130-100, Brazil

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:988  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-988

Published: 21 October 2013



Obesity is a significant global public health problem and the main cause of many chronic diseases in both developed and developing countries. The increase in obesity in different populations worldwide cannot be explained solely by metabolic and genetic factors; environmental and social factors also have a strong association with obesity. Thus, it is believed that the current obesity epidemic is the result of a complex combination of genetic factors and an obesogenic environment .The purpose of this study was to evaluate individual variables and variables within the built and social environment for their potential association with overweight and obesity in an urban Brazilian population.


Cross-sectional study was carried out in a sample of 3404 adults living in the urban area of the city. Information from the surveillance system for chronic diseases of Brazilian Ministry of Health was used and individual data was collected by telephone interviews. The database was geocoded using the Brazilian System of Postal Codes for participant residences. An updated, existing list based on the current addresses of supermarkets and hypermarkets in the city was used as an indicator variable of the availability and access to food. Georeferenced information on parks, public squares, places for practicing physical activity and the population density were also used to create data on the built environment. To characterize the social environment, we used the health vulnerability index (HVI) and georeferenced data for homicide locations.


The prevalence was 44% for overweight, poisson regression was used to create the final model. The environment variables that independently associated with overweight were the highest population density, very high health vulnerability index and the homicide rate adjusted for individuals variables. The results of the current study illustrate and confirm some important associations between individual and environmental variables and overweight in a representative sample of adults in the Brazilian urban context.


The social environment variables relating to the socioeconomic deprivation of the neighborhood and the built environment variables relating to higher walkability were significantly associated with overweight and obesity in Belo Horizonte.