Having a fast food restaurant in the neighborhood isn't necessarily going to cause you to become fat, new research suggests. The report, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, finds little relationship between proximity to fast food restaurants and bulging waist lines.
Jason Block from the Department of Popular Medicine at Harvard Medical School led a research team which assessed the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and proximity to fast food restaurants. To accomplish their experiment, they studied 3,113 participants in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort who resided in 4 Massachussetts towns between 1971 and 2001.
Researchers constantly measured BMI, noted residential mobility and the establishment and disappearance of fast food restaurants with proximity to restaurants calculated as the driving distance between each participant's residence which were divided into six different categories.
Their data found no relationship between proximity to fast food restaurants and BMI prompting Block to conclude there needs to be "a reevalution of policy discussions on the anticipated impact of the food environment on weight gain."
Does Proximity To Fast Food Restaurants Cause People To Gain Weight?
The results of Block's research seems to refute the findings of other studies which has found a direct link between location of restaurants and weight gain. Last October we reported on the results of an University of Chicago study which looked at the relationship between neighborhoods and risk for diabetes and obesity.
According to Jens Ludwig, who headed up the research team for that groundbreaking study, people residing in low income neighborhoods were more likely to be overweight and obese than people living in affluent neighborhoods. They based their evidence on psychological stresses and lack of high quality food choices (read my article "Diabetes And Obesity Are Linked To Where You Live, Study Finds").
Lower income residents often purchase high calorie foods which have low nutrient density. Fast food restaurants provide cheap meals which often contain empty calories.
One way to reconcile the conflicting results is to consider the influence of personal choice i.e. willpower in the decision making process. People who reside in close proximity to fast food restaurants may be using self-restraint i.e. making a conscious decision not to frequent fast food restaurants. If true, this would validate the need for continued education about the need for exercise and consumption of high quality foods.
Do you live near fast food restaurants? If yes, does the proximity to restaurants tempt you to eat more often? Tell us in the comments.
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Block, J.P., Christakis, N.A., O'Malley, A.J., and Subramanian, S.V. Proximity to Food Establishments and Body Mass Index in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort Over 30 Years. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2011) 174 (10):1108 - 1114. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwr244
"Can Living Near Fast Food Restaurants Cause You Gain Weight?" copyright © 2011 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.