Associations of residential brownness and greenness with fasting glucose in young healthy adults living in the desert

Hector A. Olvera-Alvarez, Matthew H.E.M. Browning, Andreas M. Neophytou, Gregory N. Bratman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


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 En-gagement 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number520
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2 2021


  • Arid
  • Biophilia
  • Built environment
  • Diabetes
  • Green space
  • Hispanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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