Hector A. Olvera-Alvarez, Matthew H. E. M. Browning, A. M. Neophytou, Gregory N. Bratman (2021). Associations of residential brownness and greenness with fasting glucose in young healthy adults living in the desert. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Evolutionary psychology theories propose that contact with green, natural environments
may benefit physical health, but little comparable evidence exists for brown, natural environments,
such as the desert. In this study, we examined the association between “brownness” and “greenness”
with fasting glucose among young residents of El Paso, Texas. We defined brownness as the surface
not covered by vegetation or impervious land within Euclidian buffers around participants’ homes.
Fasting glucose along with demographic and behavioral data were obtained from the Nurse Engagement and Wellness Study (n = 517). We found that residential proximity to brownness was not
associated with fasting glucose when modeled independently. In contrast, we found that residential
greenness was associated with decreased levels of fasting glucose, despite the relatively low levels of
greenness within the predominantly desert environment of El Paso. A difference between the top
and bottom greenness exposure quartiles within a 250 m buffer was associated with a 3.5 mg/dL
decrease in fasting glucose levels (95% confidence interval: −6.2, −0.8). Our results suggest that
within the understudied context of the desert, green vegetation may be health promoting to a degree
that is similar to other, non-desert locations in the world that have higher baselines levels of green.