Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Jiao: The increase in obesity rates has been explained by dietary changes including the consumption of high-energy, low-nutrient foods. Over the past thirty years, trends reveal increases of eating away from home. Public Health professionals have hypothesized that the heightened exposure to the ubiquitous fast food establishments may be an avenue through which health and diets are impacted.
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Dr. Jiao: This study examined whether the reported health impacts of eating at a fast food or quick service establishment on a frequent basis were associated with having such a restaurant near home. Results indicated that eating at a fast food or quick service restaurant two times or more per week was related with perceived poor health status, overweight, and obese. Simply living close to such establishments was not related to negative health outcomes such as being overweight or obese, having cardiovascular disease (CVD) or diabetes.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Jiao: The findings of this study provide insight into factors affecting higher body mass index and perceived poor health status. The distance from home to the closest fast food or quick service establishment was not associated with being overweight or obese. However, populations with lower levels of mobility may be more influenced by the environment near their home. Disadvantaged groups also appeared to be more likely to live in neighborhoods with concentrations of unhealthy food sources. In accord with numerous other studies, demographic and socioeconomic characteristics were strong predictors of the health outcomes investigated in this study. These results and findings may be useful in organizing community health strategies targeting obesity and associated health risks.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Jiao: Future research should investigate the complete spatial extent of food consumption habits including the home- and work-based environments, amongst others. As this study was based on a sample of King County’s adult population, additional investigation into populations living in areas that have different distributions of health outcomes may yield different results. The Urban Information Lab at the University of Texas at Austin will continue to explore the health impact of eating at fast food and quick service restaurants considering variations in people’s physical activity status.
Junfeng Jiao, PhD (2015). Living Close To Fast Food Restaurants Not Linked To Obesity