Living close to fast food increases risk of obesity
Living within half a mile of large numbers of fast food restaurants can raise the chances of becoming obese by a third, a new study shows.
Planning laws should be changed to set up “zones” in which the number of junk food retailers is restricted, the researchers behind the report have advised.
The findings come on top of previous studies which showed that areas with a high number of fast food outlets also had a greater number of heart attacks.
The study compared how easy it was to buy junk food or fresh fruit and vegetables in the neighbourhoods which make up the Canadian town of Edmonton.
The findings, published in the journal BMC Public Health, show that around 12 per cent of those who lived in areas with few fast food retailers were obese, while in neighbourhoods with a high density of the outlets that figure was 16 per cent.
John Spence, from the University of Alberta, Canada, who led the study, said: “A plausible policy option for decreasing the prevalence of obesity among adults is improving the retail food environment, possibly through zoning by-laws”.
Part of the problem was that fast food is often cheaper than more healthier options, he warned.
However, the study also showed that having large amounts of unhealthy food retailers within a one mile radius did not affect obesity rates.