Fast food restaurants are linked to higher rates of type 2 diabetes, study finds

Growing evidence shows a direct correlation between people living in neighborhoods with greater availability of fast food outlets and residents’ likelihood of chronic illnesses, including type 2 diabetes. The results also suggest that the availability of more supermarkets has an impact on the number of cases of type 2 diabetes, especially in rural and suburban areas.

A study published in the JAMA Network Open used data from a cohort of more than 9 million veterans living across the country. The study counted fast food restaurants and supermarkets versus other outlets to examine the relationship between the availability of this food and health issues.

According to the researchers, this study is the first to explore this relationship in four distinct neighborhoods (high density urban, low density urban, rural and suburban).

“Most of the studies examining the built food environment and its relationship to chronic disease have been much smaller or conducted in localized areas,” said Rania Kanchi, MPH, lead author of the study.

“Our study design is national in scope and allowed us to identify the types of communities in which people live, characterize their food environment and observe what happens to them over time. The size of our cohort allows for geographic generalization in a way that other studies do not. “

The researchers analyzed more than 9 million veterans seen in more than 1,200 health facilities across the country. Using the data, the researchers built a national cohort of more than 4,000,000 veterans without diabetes. Each Veteran’s health status was followed for a median of five and a half years, or until the individual developed diabetes, died or had no appointment for more than two years.

When the researchers analyzed the types of communities, 14.3% of veterans living in high-density urban communities developed type 2 diabetes. The lowest incidence (12.6%) was among veterans. residing in suburbs and small towns.

Overall, the effect of the food environment on the incidence of type 2 diabetes was found to vary with the degree of urbanization of the community and the availability of fast food outlets. A built environment in the neighborhood with a high availability of poor food choices directly correlates with the likelihood that residents will develop chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. These residents are also at greater risk for disability, obesity and other chronic illnesses.

Policymakers need to make improvements

Researchers believe that the more we learn about the relationship between the food environment and chronic disease, the more policymakers can take action by improving the mix of healthy food options for its residents.

The next phase of the research would be to better understand the impact of the built environment on the risk of diabetes by subgroups. The researchers plan to analyze the relationships between fast food restaurants, supermarkets, and community types such as race / ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender.

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About Walter Bartholomew

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