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Options for Eating Out Affect Obesity Risk

Body mass indices higher in areas with greatest density of fast-food restaurants

TUESDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- There is a strong correlation between individual body mass index and the neighborhood density of fast-food restaurants, according to research published in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Neil K. Mehta and Virginia W. Chang, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, analyzed data on the weight status of 714,054 people and the availability of restaurant options in the areas where they lived. Analysis included the density of both fast-food and full-service restaurants, and the ratio of one type to the other.

Body mass index and risk of obesity were positively associated with a higher fast-food to full-service restaurant ratio and to greater fast-food restaurant density. The association held even when individual demographic factors and county-level structural factors were taken into account.

"While a higher mix of fast-food to full-service restaurants may contribute to an obesogenic environment, the availability of full-service restaurants may contribute to a more healthful eating environment," the authors write. "Future studies should consider the restaurant mix as a pathway through which more general area-level factors can affect weight status differences. Future studies should also consider how actual eating behaviors are shaped by the availability of different types of restaurants."

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