Does Living Near Fast Food Restaurants Mean You’re More Likely to Be Fat?

In the fight for green food, fast food joints are often the arch enemy. With factory farmed meat, conventional and low quality condiments and ingredients, and copious fossil fuels wasted in transport, there’s little to find positive in one of the main causes of America’s out-of-hand obesity epidemic. A new study explores whether a suspected culprit, proximity, could be a reason why so many Americans partake in fast food, many knowing how bad it is for their health and the health of the planet. You may be surprised at the results.

We Americans are convenience eaters, that’s our biggest problem. In a pinch, culturally it’s okay to grab-n-go, so conventional thinking would say that those that lived closer to fast food restaurants would be fatter. No so fast, says a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The Wall Street Journal Health blog reports:

Harvard researchers looked at data from the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort covering 3,113 people in four towns between 1971 and 2001. That data included measurements of BMI over time and the moves the people made within the towns. Plus, researchers used a bunch of different sources to identify fast-food restaurants in those towns.

Proximity Not the Cause

When they put all the data together they found that living near fast food restaurants had no link to whether you were going to stop at the drive through and “fill up” so to speak. One of the lead researchers, Jason Block, an instructor in the department of population medicine at Harvard Medical School, says that more research needs to be done to find out whether proximity to workplace is linked to more obesity. And considering how many Americans work long hours away from home, that’s certainly a fair question.

And that’s not to say we’re not eating fast food, because we certainly are. According to Harvard Magazine, “Americans spend 49 cents of every food dollar on food eaten outside the home.” That’s also where we consumer 30 percent of our calories. This is drastically different then in the 1950’s when Americans ate largely at home.

So whether it’s convenience, availability, price, advertising, or flavor (no, I don’t believe it), we’re still eating fast food and with a 33.8 percent obesity rate, it’s undoubtedly taking a toll on the American waistline.

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