Study Ties Limited Food Options to Incidence of Diabetes, Obesity
Communities where fast-food restaurants greatly outnumber grocery stores and produce vendors have higher rates of diabetes and obesity than neighborhoods with fewer fast-food outlets, according to a study released today by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The study created a "retail food environment index" by dividing the number of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores by the number of produce vendors and grocery stores. Researchers then compared those findings with health care information for a representative sample of 40,000 Californians.
The study -- which involved researchers from PolicyLink, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy -- found that the average Californian has more than four times as many fast-food restaurants and convenience stores near them as they have produce vendors and grocery stores.
Harold Goldstein, a study author, said the link between diabetes and obesity, and the proximity to less nutritious food "was true for people living in both high-income and low-income communities, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender or level of physical activity" (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 4/29).
The study found that obesity rates were 20% higher in neighborhoods with five or more times as many fast-food restaurants as supermarkets, compared with neighborhoods with three or less.
Similarly, diabetes rates were 23% higher in those neighborhoods with five or more times as many fast-food restaurants as supermarkets.
The study recommended that fast-food restaurants be required to post calorie and fat content on their menu boards and that local planning departments place zoning restrictions on new fast-food outlets (Engel, Los Angeles Times, 4/29).
Goldstein also called for local planners to limit the density of fast-food restaurants (Sacramento Bee, 4/29).
The California Restaurant Association opposes both of those recommendations.
According to the Times, the study also is expected to generate legislation addressing nutrition (Los Angeles Times, 4/29).