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Does Living Near Fast-Food Restaurants Increase Obesity Risk?

By Robert Erhman, MD

Fast-Food Restaurants The reason healthcare providers are so worried about rising obesity numbers is that excess body fat can cause many other health problems, including hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart attacks. Being obese can even shorten your lifespan. The keys to losing weight are eating healthy and getting more exercise. There are two parts to eating healthy—the first is choosing to eat foods that are good for you. The second part is avoiding unhealthy food, like sugary drinks and fast food.

But, fast food tastes good, and sometimes you’re in a hurry and you need a quick meal. In fact, a recent study has found that people who live or work near lots of fast food places eat it more often and are at an increased risk of being obese.

Why is fast food unhealthy?

Fast food tastes good, there’s no doubt about that. But all the good taste comes at a price—in this case, it comes in the form of calories. One of the reasons that fast food tastes so good is because it has lots of fat and sodium in it. These things are good for your mouth, but not so good for your waistline.

Plus, the fats found in fast food are usually the unhealthy ones (trans fats) that can clog-up your blood vessels and lead to heart disease. Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure. It can also cause big problems if your kidneys don’t work well.

The research

The study included about 5,500 people who answered questions about their eating habits and their weight. The researchers figured out how much of some common fast food items people ate, including:

  • Pizza
  • French fries
  • Burgers
  • Fried chicken

In addition, the researchers looked to see how many fast food places there were close people’s homes and workplaces. What the researchers wanted to know was if people who lived and worked near lots of fast food places ate more fast food and weighed more, compared to people who didn’t live or work near fast food restaurants.

The results

The results of the study showed that people who lived and worked near more fast food places ate more fast food every day than people who don’t. In addition, these people were almost twice as likely to be obese!

What do these results mean for you?

Just being near a fast food place doesn’t make you obese. But, the more you pass by them, the more likely you are to be tempted to go in and have a high-fat, high-calorie meal—and this can lead to obesity.

So, what can you do to avoid these problems? The key is being prepared! This means keeping healthy food at home and at work so you can enjoy tasty and healthy meals instead of fast food.

It’s okay to eat fast food once in a while (once or twice a month), but eating it more than that could lead to health problems. That’s why always having healthy snacks on hand is important—it keeps you filled-up with good stuff, which helps you avoid the temptation of fast food when you’re hungry.

The take home points

  • Fast food can taste good, but it’s high in calories, fat and salt.
  • Eating too much fast food can lead to obesity and many other health problems.
  • People who live or work near lots of fast food places eat more of it and have a greater chance of being obese.
  • Avoid temptation by eating healthy meals at home so you won’t be tempted when you go out.
  • Keeping healthy snacks in your purse, car, or at work can help you avoid unhealthy choices when you’re away from home.

Fast food tastes good, and it’s quick and easy, but it can be really bad for your health. Avoiding fast food and making healthy choices takes time and planning, and this can be hard work. But remember: you’re worth it! A little bit of hard work today can lead to a happier, healthier, and longer life.

For more information on fast food, have a look at Processed Foods and Type 2 Diabetes.

 

Robert Ehrman, MD (45 Articles)

Dr. Robert Ehrman, MD is a Board Certified Emergency Physician. He completed his training in Emergency Medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, CT and Cook County Hospital in Chicago, IL. He always reminds his patients that the more they take care for their health each day, the less likely they are to visit him again in the ER!

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