FAST-food restaurants continuously take over many high streets in the Western world and are only growing in demand due to their convenience, low costs, and good taste. However, it is no secret that the consumption of burgers and fries is bad for our health. Many fast-food chains use cheap ingredients that are high in fat and added sugar, making the delectable meals great for our taste buds but poor for our long-term health. An insightful study conducted in the USA shared the problematic link between fast-food restaurants and Type 2 diabetes (T2D).
Researchers analysed a large data set from 2008–2016, containing over 4 million individuals from the Veterans Affairs electronic health records. The individuals did not have T2D at baseline and the researchers discovered after a 5.5-year follow-up, 13.2% of individuals developed T2D. Interestingly, incidence of T2D increased in older subjects, non-Hispanic Black people, and those with low incomes. Further to this, those individuals who lived in areas where fast-food restaurants were easily accessible were more likely to develop T2D in multiple community types.
Rania Kanchi, Department of Population Health, New York University (NYU) Langone Health, USA, shared how the study design was better than many previous studies as this study covered a large geographic breadth. Kanchi added: “The size of our cohort allows for geographic generalisability in a way that other studies do not.”
The results stress the importance of taking action to address the burden of T2D on individuals and considering restricting the number of fast-food restaurants available while increasing the number of supermarkets selling fresh produce. This is particularly important in rural locations in the USA, where there are not as many supermarkets but an abundance of fast-food chains. Researchers believe that these actions are necessary alongside increasing awareness of the link between unhealthy fast-food restaurants and the risk of T2D.
Lorna Thorpe, Professor in the Department of Population Health, NYU Langone, USA, and senior author of the study, concluded how these findings could shape the future of food options in neighbourhoods: “The more we learn about the relationship between the food environment and chronic diseases like T2D, 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.”