The scientists behind the study have called for a better “public health model” to make cities healthier, and ensure that interventions address the health imbalances fast food restaurants are causing.
The findings only showed an association between fast food proximity and type 2 diabetes risk, but they back up previous studies suggesting that having fast food outlets on the door step is a risk factor for both obesity and type 2 diabetes.
In this, the largest study to focus on type 2 diabetes and the exposure to ready-to-eat food places. 350,000 men and women from across the UK had their proximities to junk food venues assessed.
The research team, from the Healthy High-Density Cities Lab at the University of Hong Kong and Oxford University, found there were some streets across the UK where people were very provided little access to healthier food options.
Those who lived in the densest cluster of ready-to-eat food outlets had an 11% higher risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who lived in a street more than 1km away from fast food.
“The results have important public health implications and make the case for a shift from an exclusively corporate-driven economic model to a public health-driven health economic model of urban food access and consumption,” said the authors.
“National-level policies must encourage and incentivise the food industry to transform menus from unhealthy to healthy.”
Lead author of the study Dr Chinmoy Sarkar added: “We have to move away from the economic model to a more public health model.”
The government has recently proposed that all restaurants label the calorie content in their menus to help customers make healthier decisions.
The findings of the research have been published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal.
Editors note: Eating convenience food often means eating a higher amount of carbs and sugar, which can increase the risk of weight gain. For more information on how to enjoy eating healthy, real-food meals, visit our Low Carb Program.