When fast food gets too close to home… literally

Prior research has found higher rates of obesity among African Americans as compared with other ethnic groups. To expand upon this, Lorraine Reitzel and her research team studied more than 1,400 African Americans in this new study examining the relationships between body mass index (BMI) and proximity and density of fast food restaurants. Even after controlling for various factors that may influence BMI, results show that closer residential proximity to fast food restaurants is associated with a higher BMI among African Americans. In addition, researchers found a positive correlation between the number of fast food restaurants and BMI within a half-mile, one-mile, and two-miles of the homes of lower income participants (those making $40,000 or less each year). There are several possible explanations for these results, including the affordable prices and convenience of fast food, the limited access to transportation for people of lower income, and the location of fast food restaurants on main roads taken in and out of neighborhoods daily. These findings have many important implications for future policies and interventions in helping us understand community and social factors influencing obesity.