Living near fast food restaurants increases risk of type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on November 12, 2014

How close you live to fast food restaurants may be linked to your risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity, a new study has found.

Research led by the University of Leicester in England has discovered a higher number of fast food outlets within 500 metres of inner city neighbourhoods described as “non-white”, as well as in socially deprived areas.

Looking at the effects of Western junk food on the health of non Western populations

For every two additional fast food outlets per neighborhood, there is one new case of diabetes

‘Our study suggests that for every additional two outlets per neighbourhood, we would expect one additional diabetes case, assuming a causal relationship between the fast-food outlet and diabetes,’ researchers said in the study published in Public Health Nutrition.

The research was carried out by a team from the University of Leicester’s Diabetes Research Centre, Department of Health Sciences and Department of Geography in collaboration with the Leicester Diabetes Centre based at Leicester General Hospital.

Professor Melanie Davies and Professor Kamlesh Khunti, co-directors of the department, have been conducting one of the largest screening studies of its kind with south Asian patients. The data from this study has also helped with recommendations for the NHS Health Checks Programme.

‘In multi-ethnic regions of the UK, individuals had on average two fast food outlets within 500 meters of their home. This number differed substantially by key demographics, including ethnicity,’ said Professor Khunti,

‘People of non-white ethnicity had more than twice the number of fast food outlets in their neighbourhood compared with White Europeans. We found that the number of fast food outlets in a person’s neighbourhood was associated with an increased risk of screen-detected type 2 diabetes and obesity,’ he explained.

‘We found a much higher number of fast food outlets in more deprived areas where a higher number of black and minority ethnic populations resided. This, in turn, was associated with higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes,’ he added.

Khunti described the results as ‘quite alarming’ and pointed out that they have major implications for public health interventions to limit the number of fast food outlets in more deprived areas.

‘This work has several notable strengths; namely, it is the first study, to our knowledge, to look at the association between the number of neighbourhood fast food outlets and type 2 diabetes in a multi-ethnic population. Although it is not possible to infer causal effect, our study found that plausible causal mechanisms exist,’ said Dr. Patrice Carter, the lead author.

‘The observed association between the number of fast food outlets with obesity and type 2 diabetes does not come as a surprise. Fast food is high in total fat, trans fatty acids and sodium, portion sizes have increased two to fivefold over the last 50 years and a single fast food meal provides approximately 1,400 kcal. Furthermore, fast food outlets often provide sugar rich drinks,’ explained Carter.

The researchers warn that their findings, based on a study of over 10,000 people, have important implications for diabetes prevention and for those granting planning permission for fast food outlets.

The study team explained that the research is cross sectional by design, so results should be interpreted with caution and further research is required.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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