Lead author Cathleen Zick, professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah, said to gauge a health benefit, researchers used body mass index -- a calculation based on a person's height and weight. In general, a normal BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9; a smaller number is better than a larger one.
Zick and colleagues studied three groups. One included unrelated people from the same geographic neighborhood. This group would share similar physical environments, like walkability and proximity to food shops and stores, as well as economic status.
The second group was same sex siblings, who would be expected to share genetic predispositions for weight and family influences on diet and exercise. The third group was married spouses of the gardeners, because they would likely share lifestyle and food choices, including food grown in the community garden.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found women community gardeners had an average BMI 1.84 lower than their neighbors, which translates to an 11 pound weight difference for a woman 5- feet, 5-inches tall. For men, the BMI was lower by 2.36 for gardeners a- difference of 16 pounds for a man 5-feet, 10-inches tall, compared to those who didn't garden.
In addition, the study found gardeners were also less likely to be overweight or obese; 46 percent less for women gardeners, and 62 percent less for men gardeners.