Researchers at the University of Toronto, the London School of Economics and University Pompeu Fabra in Spain released a working paper entitled "Fat City: Questioning The Relationship Between Urban Sprawl and Obesity" that found no evidence that urban sprawl affects weight.
The researchers found that people living in sprawling neighborhoods tend to be heavier than those living where development is compact and there are many shops and amenities within walking distance. However, this is not because sprawling neighborhoods cause people to gain weight, but populations are heavier because individuals more at risk for obesity tend to live in such places.
"Someone who does not like to walk is more likely to be obese and is more likely to live where one can easily get around by car," says University of Toronto economics professor Matthew Turner. "Thus, the finding that people in sprawling neighborhoods are heavier does not imply that sprawl causes obesity."