While home cooking may seem like a basic life skill, today’s modern families and young professionals are relying more on easily available and seemingly cheap fast food for their daily meals, and unfortunately, this sets the standard for their children as well. Lately, obesity has been viewed as an epidemic, seen in over one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults. Excess weight predisposes an individual to developing a number of life-threatening complications, one of the most common consequences being type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that nearly twenty-three million Americans (7.8%) are diabetic, with roughly 5.7 million unaware they even have diabetes.
According to a recent study from the University of Leicester involving more than 10,000 participants, an individual’s proximity to fast-food outlets may directly determine one’s risk for becoming obese and eventually developing type 2 diabetes. The findings are currently available in the journal Public Health Nutrition, and may prove critical to preventive interventions for diabetes.
The study noted the accessibility of fast food outlets to inner-city neighborhoods that were considered socially deprived areas, home to mostly non-whites, and found a significantly higher number of outlets within 500 meters of these areas. The authors said, “Our study suggests that for every additional two outlets per neighborhood, we would expect one additional diabetes case, assuming a causal relationship between the fast-food outlet and diabetes.”
Professor Kamlesh Khunti, Professor of Primary Care Diabetes & Vascular Medicine at the university, said that their survey revealed residents of multi-ethnic, deprived regions had an average of 2 fast food outlets within 500 meters of their home. Lead author Dr. Patrice Carter, believes this is the first study to attempt to establish a link between the number of proximal fast food outlets to type 2 diabetes in a multi-ethnic population, and that further research is needed to confirm a direct relationship.
“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 5860 kJ (1400 kcal),” she said. “Furthermore, fast-food outlets often provide sugar-rich drinks.”
This study was made possible through the collaborative efforts of researchers from the University of Leicester’s Diabetes Research Centre, Department of Health Sciences and Department of Geography, and the Leicester Diabetes Centre based at Leicester General Hospital.