According to researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the body mass index of low-income African Americans that live in close proximity to fast food is higher than those who do not.
Often called food deserts, cheap, affordable, abundant fast food options in low-income neighborhoods is highly influential on obesity rates among the population.
According to the study, even higher-income populations displayed a higher body mass index depending on their proximity to fast food.
But income is still a very important factor.
The study controlled for factors that may influence a person’s BMI including gender, age, physical activity, individual household income, median neighborhood income, education, partner status, employment status and residential tenure. Sedentary behaviors, including the amount of time the participant spent watching television, were considered. Researchers also controlled for the presence of children in the home because of its known relation with physical activity rates.
Researchers examined the density of fast food restaurants within a half mile, one mile, two miles and five miles around each participant’s home.
On average there were 2.5 fast food restaurants within a half mile, 4.5 within a mile, 11.4 within 2 miles and 71.3 within 5 miles of participants’ homes. “We found a significant relationship between the number of fast food restaurants and BMI for within a half-mile, one-mile and two-miles of the home, but only among lower-income study participants,” said Reitzel. The data showed the greater the density, the higher the BMI. There was no significant association for the five-mile area.
“There’s something about living close to a fast food restaurant that’s associated with a higher BMI,” said Reitzel. She said that there may be some behavioral economics involved in the decision to choose fast food over a healthier choice. “Fast food is specifically designed to be affordable, appealing and convenient. People are pressed for time, and they behave in such a way that will cost them the least amount of time to get things done, and this may extend to their food choices.”
What can we do to combat food deserts, and its impact on the health of our communities?
How can we make healthier options both affordable and available to everyone?
Sound off below!