Quantcast

Study: Children Have Better Nutrition When They Live Near Forests

Health + Wellness
Hero Images / Getty Images

Spending time in nature is known to boost mental and emotional health. Now, a new global study has found that children in 27 developing nations tend to have more diverse diets and better nutrition when they live near forests.

The paper, published Wednesday in Science Advances, provides evidence that forest conservation can be an important tool in promoting better nutrition in developing countries, rather than clear-cutting forests for more farmland.


"The data show that forests aren't just correlated with improvements in people's diets," said lead author Ranaivo Rasolofoson, a scientist at the University of Vermont (UVM), in a press release. "We show that forests cause these improvements."

These kids have access to a variety of forest food products, including animal, plant and mushroom species, which can supply essential micronutrients that contribute significantly to nutrition, the authors wrote in the study.

"Dietary diversity is a good proxy for micronutrient intake and tells us a lot about the overall health of a community," Brendan Fisher, a professor in UVM's Environmental Program in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and a co-author on the new research, explained to ABC News.

For the study, the researchers collected the diet information of children younger than 5 years old from the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) diet information database from 2000-2013. The team then analyzed children's diets from 43,000 households—in Nepal, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Philippines, the Caribbean, South America, sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe—that were both close to and far away from forests.

They found that high exposure to forests causes children to have at least 25 percent greater dietary diversity compared to lack of exposure. These children are also eating more vitamin A– and iron-rich foods by at least 11 and 16 percent points, respectively.

What's more, the authors write, forests are important shelters for pollinators, which are crucial for the production of fruits and vegetables. Forest-dependent households have access to timber and other forest products that can be used to generate income and be used to buy more diverse foods. This can also mean less time spent collecting fuelwood, leaf fodder and grass for livestock feed.

"We discovered that the positive effect of forests is greater for poor communities," Rasolofoson said. "But communities need at least some access to roads, markets, and education in order to get the most benefit from their forests."

The study shows that forest conservation and health can "go hand-in-hand," as co-author and University of Vermont professor Brendan Fisher in the press release.

Taylor Ricketts, director of UVM's Gund Institute and senior author of the study, added: "Economic development and forest conservation are typically thought of as trade-offs—that leaders have to prioritize one or the other. This study helps to show that's just not always, or even usually, true. More often than we think, it's a false choice."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Juvenile hatchery salmon flushed from a tanker truck in San Francisco Bay, California. Ben Moon

That salmon sitting in your neighborhood grocery store's fish counter won't look the same to you after watching Artifishal, a new film from Patagonia.

Read More Show Less
Natdanai Pankong / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Coconut meat is the white flesh inside a coconut.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Arx0nt / Moment / Getty Images

By Taylor Jones, RD

Oats are a highly nutritious grain with many health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

Get ready to toast bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. National Pollinator Week is June 17-23 and it's a perfect time to celebrate the birds, bugs and lizards that are so essential to the crops we grow, the flowers we smell, and the plants that produce the air we breathe.

Read More Show Less
Alexander Spatari / Moment / Getty Images

It seems like every day a new diet is declared the healthiest — paleo, ketogenic, Atkins, to name a few — while government agencies regularly release their own recommended dietary guidelines. But there may not be an ideal one-size-fits-all diet, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Logging shown as part of a thinning and restoration effort in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon on Oct. 22, 2014. Oregon Department of Forestry / CC BY 2.0

The U.S Forest Service unveiled a new plan to skirt a major environmental law that requires extensive review for new logging, road building, and mining projects on its nearly 200 million acres of public land. The proposal set off alarm bells for environmental groups, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less
Maskot / Getty Images

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

It's easy to wonder which foods are healthiest.

Read More Show Less
Homes in Washington, DC's Brookland neighborhood were condemned to clear room for a highway in the 1960s. The community fought back. Brig Cabe / DC Public Library

By Teju Adisa-Farrar & Raul Garcia

In the summer of 1969 a banner hung over a set of condemned homes in what was then the predominantly black and brown Brookland neighborhood in Washington, DC. It read, "White man's roads through black men's homes."

Earlier in the year, the District attempted to condemn the houses to make space for a proposed freeway. The plans proposed a 10-lane freeway, a behemoth of a project that would divide the nation's capital end-to-end and sever iconic Black neighborhoods like Shaw and the U Street Corridor from the rest of the city.

Read More Show Less