Amount of fast food outlets major cause of diabetes and obesity

Levels of diabetes and obesity case are higher in inner cities due in part to the number of fast-food outlets near people's homes, a study has found.

A study of 10,000 people in the UK found there were twice as many fast-food outlets within 500 metres of non-white and socially deprived neighbourhoods.

‘Alarming results’

Lead researcher, Professor Kamlesh Khunti, from the University of Leicester, said that the results were quite alarming and have major implications for public health interventions to limit the number of fast-food outlets in more deprived areas.

Writing in the journal Public Health Nutrition, he said that the researchers found that every additional two outlets per neighbourhood led to the expectation of one additional case of diabetes. This was assuming a causal relationship between the two.

Prof Khunti said that in a multi-ethnic region of the UK, individuals had on average two fast-food outlets within 500 metres of their home.


This number differed substantially by key demographics, including ethnicity. People of non-white ethnicity had more than twice the number of fast-food outlets in their neighbourhood compared with white Europeans.

The study found that the number of fast-food outlets in a person's neighbourhood was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

It also found a much higher number of fast-food outlets in more deprived areas where a higher number of black and minority ethnic populations resided. This in turn was associated with higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes.


There has been a marked increase in obesity rates over the past eight years, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre. In 1993, 13% of men and 16% of women were obese growing to 24% for men and 26% for women in 2011.

An Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ report in 2013 on obesity recommended that Public Health England should undertake an audit of local authority licensing and catering arrangements to develop recommendations on reducing fast food outlets near schools, colleges, leisure centres and other places where children gather.

Fast-food is high in total fat, trans-fatty acids and sodium. Dr Carter said that portion sizes have increased up to fivefold over the last 50 years and a single fast-food meal provides approximately 1,400 calories. Furthermore, fast-food outlets often provide sugar-rich drinks.Co-author Dr Patrice Carter, also from the Leicester team, said that the observed association between the number of fast-food outlets with obesity and type 2 diabetes does not come as a surprise.

The research was published ahead of
World Diabetes Day on Friday.

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