Are Fast Food Restaurants an Environmental Risk Factor for Obesity?

Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, 1300 South 2nd Street, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55454-1015, USA. .
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (Impact Factor: 4.11). 02/2006; 3(1):2. DOI: 10.1186/1479-5868-3-2
Source: PubMed


Eating at "fast food" restaurants has increased and is linked to obesity. This study examined whether living or working near "fast food" restaurants is associated with body weight.
A telephone survey of 1033 Minnesota residents assessed body height and weight, frequency of eating at restaurants, and work and home addresses. Proximity of home and work to restaurants was assessed by Global Index System (GIS) methodology.
Eating at "fast food" restaurants was positively associated with having children, a high fat diet and Body Mass Index (BMI). It was negatively associated with vegetable consumption and physical activity. Proximity of "fast food" restaurants to home or work was not associated with eating at "fast food" restaurants or with BMI. Proximity of "non-fast food" restaurants was not associated with BMI, but was associated with frequency of eating at those restaurants.
Failure to find relationships between proximity to "fast food" restaurants and obesity may be due to methodological weaknesses, e.g. the operational definition of "fast food" or "proximity", or homogeneity of restaurant proximity. Alternatively, the proliferation of "fast food" restaurants may not be a strong unique cause of obesity.

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    • "By doing so, we bring together two streams of literature, consumer psychology and public health, to develop an interdisciplinary contribution. In particular, the context of fast-food was chosen because it has been linked to obesity (Jeffery et al. 2006). Our findings are the first to suggest that food insufficiency may make individuals more susceptible to at least some types of food marketing communications. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective and procedure: We examined the effect of health claims and food deprivation levels on the health risk perceptions of fast-food restaurants. Consistent with previous research, we used a within-subjects experimental design to manipulate the health claims of fast-food restaurants using real brands: Subway, expressing strong health claims vs. McDonald's, expressing weak health claims. Participants who did not have access to nutrition information were asked to estimate the health risk associated with food items that were slightly more caloric for Subway than McDonald's (640 kcal vs. 600 kcal). We collected data through a web survey with a sample consisting of 414 American adults. Based on the USDA Food Insufficiency Indicator, participants were classified into two categorical food deprivation levels: food sufficiency and food insufficiency. Results and conclusions: We find that risk perceptions for obesity, diabetes and cardiac illnesses are lower (higher) for the restaurant with stronger (lower) health claims, i.e., Subway (McDonald's). Moreover, we also find that food deprivation levels moderate this effect, such that health risk underestimation is aggravated for individuals who suffer from food insufficiency. More precisely, we find that food insufficient individuals are more responsive to health claims, such that they perceive less health risk than food sufficient individuals for the restaurant with stronger health claims (Subway). Exploring the underlying mechanism of the latter effect, we found that dietary involvement mediates the relationship between food deprivation levels and health risk perceptions for the restaurant with stronger health claims (Subway). These results provide an interdisciplinary contribution in consumer psychology and public health.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Social Science & Medicine
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    • "c o m / l o c a t e / y p m e d A growing number of studies suggest that greater exposure to FFR is associated with unhealthy food purchases, poorer diets, and higher weight status (Mehta and Chang, 2008; Fleischhacker et al., 2010; Fraser et al., 2010). Other studies, however, have found no association, or paradoxically found lower rates of overweight or obesity in areas with higher densities of FFR (Jeffery et al., 2006; Crawford et al., 2008; Zick et al., 2009; Pearce et al., 2009; Black et al., 2010; Kestens et al., 2012; Bader et al., 2013). Heterogeneity across studies may be due to many methodological differences, including varying definitions of neighborhood and food outlets, and different ways of measuring exposure to restaurants (Fleischhacker et al., 2010; Charreire et al., 2010; Caspi et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Given the continuing epidemic of obesity, policymakers are increasingly looking for levers within the local retail food environment as a means of promoting healthy weights. Purpose: To examine the independent and joint associations of absolute and relative densities of restaurants near home with weight status in a large, urban, population-based sample of adults. Methods: We studied 10,199 adults living in one of four cities in southern Ontario, Canada, who participated in the Canadian Community Health Survey (cycles 2005, 2007/08, 2009/10). Multivariate models assessed the association of weight status (obesity and body mass index) with absolute densities (numbers) of fast-food, full-service and other restaurants, and the relative density (proportion) of fast-food restaurants (FFR) relative to all restaurants within ~10-minute walk of residential areas. Results: Higher numbers of restaurants of any type were inversely related to excess weight, even in models adjusting for a range of individual covariates and area deprivation. However, these associations were no longer significant after accounting for higher walkability of areas with high volumes of restaurants. In contrast, there was a direct relationship between the proportion of FFR relative to all restaurants and excess weight, particularly in areas with high volumes of FFR (e.g., Odds Ratio for obesity=2.55 in areas with 5+ FFR, 95% Confidence Interval: 1.55-4.17, across the interquartile range). Conclusions: Policies aiming to promote healthy weights that target the volume of certain retail food outlets in residential settings may be more effective if they also consider the relative share of outlets serving more and less healthful foods.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Preventive Medicine
    • "Longacre et al. (2012) found that persons living in a nonmetropolitan area with five or more fast-food outlets in their neighborhood are 30% more likely to eat fast food compared to persons with no such availability. In contrast, two other studies found no significant association between the presence of fast food and an individual's fast-food consumption (Jeffery et al., 2006; Thornton et al., 2009). The GIS-based results in our study partially confirm those of previous research in that they do not show a significant association between the number of fast-food outlets present in one's neighborhood and individual weekly fast-food consumption. "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent nutritional and public health research has focused on how the availability of various types of food in a person's immediate area or neighborhood influences his or her food choices and eating habits. It has been theorized that people living in areas with a wealth of unhealthy fast-food options may show higher levels of fast-food consumption, a factor that often coincides with being overweight or obese. However, measuring food availability in a particular area is difficult to achieve consistently: there may be differences in the strict physical locations of food options as compared to how individuals perceive their personal food availability, and various studies may use either one or both of these measures. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between weekly fast-food consumption and both a person's perceived availability of fast-food and an objective measure of fast-food presence—Geographic Information Systems (GIS)—within that person's neighborhood. A randomly selected population-based sample of eight counties in South Carolina was used to conduct a cross-sectional telephone survey assessing self-report fast-food consumption and perceived availability of fast food. GIS was used to determine the actual number of fast-food outlets within each participant's neighborhood. Using multinomial logistic regression analyses, we found that neither perceived availability nor GIS-based presence of fast-food was significantly associated with weekly fast-food consumption. Our findings indicate that availability might not be the dominant factor influencing fast-food consumption. We recommend using subjective availability measures and considering individual characteristics that could influence both perceived availability of fast food and its impact on fast-food consumption. If replicated, our findings suggest that interventions aimed at reducing fast-food consumption by limiting neighborhood fast-food availability might not be completely effective.
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · Appetite
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