Living in an area with more fast food outlets and convenience stores than supermarkets and grocers has been associated with obesity in a Canadian study. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Public Health have shown that your local food environment can affect your weight.
John Spence from the University of Alberta, Canada, worked with a team of researchers to study associations between the 'Retail Food Environment Index' (RFEI) and levels of obesity. He said, "The RFEI is based upon a ratio of the number of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores to supermarkets and specialty food stores in a given radius around a person's house. We've shown that it correlates very well with the odds that that person may be obese".
The availability of fast food and scarcity of outlets for natural ingredients within 800m of a person's home was shown to be associated with weight, while the RFEI within a 1600m radius did not have the same effect. The researchers claim that this demonstrates that the proximity of the unhealthy environment is an important risk factor for obesity. According to Spence, "These findings may help explain the observation that geographic concentration of fast-food restaurants is associated with mortality and hospital admissions for acute coronary events in Canada".
Fast-food is cheaper and more energy-dense per measure of weight than other healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables that are purchased in a grocery store. If governments want to reduce people's intake of these energy-efficient, but ultimately unhealthy 'meals', the authors recommend that they intervene to limit the creation of areas where tempting junk-food outlets are so much more prevalent than other shops. They write, "A plausible policy option for decreasing the prevalence of obesity among adults is improving the retail food environment, possibly through zoning by-laws".
Notes to Editors
1. Relation between local food environments and obesity among adults
John C Spence, Nicoleta Cutumisu, Joy Edwards, Kim D Raine and Karen Smoyer-Tomic
BMC Public Health (in press)
During embargo, article available here: http://www.
After the embargo, article available at journal website: http://www.
Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.
Article citation and URL available on request at firstname.lastname@example.org on the day of publication
2. BMC Public Health is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in all aspects of epidemiology and public health medicine. BMC Public Health (ISSN 1471-2458) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, CAS, Scopus, EMBASE, Thomson Scientific (ISI) and Google Scholar.
3. BioMed Central (www.biomedcentral.com) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.