Restaurant density not linked to obesity prevalence
The number of fast-food restaurants (FFRs) and full-service restaurants (FSRs) is not associated with the prevalence of obesity, and the food consumed in these establishments is responsible for <20 percent of total energy intake, according to a US study.
Researchers conducted an ecological cross-sectional study to assess the population-level association between both FSRs and FFRs and the prevalence of obesity, as well as calculated the proportion of calories consumed in these establishments.
County-level (aggregate-level) data was used for obesity prevalence across the mainland US in 2012, and these were matched to county-level per capita densities of FFRs and FSRs in the same year. Multiple linear regression was used to determine the relation between the prevalence of obesity and the densities of FFRs and FSRs after adjustment for confounding factors.
There was a highly significantly negative association between obesity prevalence and the densities of both FFRs and FSRs (combined-effect R2=0.195), contrary to expectations. The reason behind this was that greater numbers of both FFRs and FSRs were located in areas in which individuals were wealthier and more educated on average.
The associations between restaurant densities and obesity effectively disappeared when factors (and additional socioeconomic variables) were normalized (pooled R2=0.008). Furthermore, calculations revealed that the percentage of total calories consumed in FFRs and FSTs was a mean of only 15.9 percent of the total intake (maximum, 22.6 percent).
“This finding has implications for policy decisions regarding how we aim to tackle the obesity epidemic,” researchers said.