Living in a neighborhood with a lot of fast food joints puts you at increased risk for type 2 diabetes: study

Living in a neighborhood with a lot of fast food joints puts you at increased risk for type 2 diabetes: study

Researchers look at numerous types of neighborhoods to come up with their findings.

Burgers, fries, donuts, and delights: fast food can be fun. But after a while, it can also be dangerous to your health. As they say, everything in moderation!

It comes as no real surprise then but the official facts are now in. According to researchers at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and NYU Langone Health, you have a higher chance of developing type two diabetes if you live in a neighborhood that has a larger number of fast food outlets. It doesn’t just come down to individual choice, apparently. The physical environment of your neighborhood and how it’s designed can have a strong role to play in what food choices you make.

What is type two diabetes?

Type one diabetes is the kind people are born with. When a person has diabetes their body cannot turn food into usable energy because their pancreas cannot produce insulin. Type two diabetes results in the same condition but is developed over time. There are various factors at play when someone develops this kind of diabetes, one of which is thought to be being overweight and inactive.

The study looked at over four million veterans living across the US. Research took into account the prevalence of fast food in the neighborhoods, and the state of the participants’ health. Researchers examined four types of living areas including high-density urban, low-density urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods.

             Related: Why Kids Need A lot of Exposure to Green Space

What specifics were found? The veterans involved in the study were followed for five and a half years. Over this time period, just over 13% developed type two diabetes, with more men developing the disease than women.

Participants living in high density urban areas had the highest chance of developing type two diabetes compared to their more rural counterparts.

The study is thought to be one of the first of its kind to examine the built food environment and how it’s related to diseases on a national level.

So, the facts are there. Cities + fast food = an increased diabetes risk. Can something be done about this, or should we all up and move to the countryside?

Government policy

With some foresight, we don’t all have to move to the sticks, (although in some ways, this might be an attractive solution). Researchers say they’re hoping the discoveries in the study lead to larger changes.

“The more we learn about the relationship between the food environment and chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, the more policymakers can act by improving the mix of healthy food options sold in restaurants and food outlets, or by creating better zoning laws that promote optimal food options for residents,” said Lorna Thorpe, PhD, MPH, who was senior author of the study.

Basically, if it’s easier for people to buy fresh food and make their own meals than to buy pre-cooked processed food, we’ll likely be better off.

Skip the fries and drink, order a side salad instead and walk to get there. The fast food restaurant might still be around the corner but we can all take small steps towards better health on all fronts.

photo credits: Alena Haurylik/

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