Researchers at the University of Leicester have taken a close look at links between inner-city fast food, ethnicity, obesity and diabetes.
The study, based on more than 10,000 people, found that there was a higher number of fast food outlets within 500-metres of areas described as ‘non-white’ in socially-deprived areas.
‘Our study suggests that for every additional two outlets per neighbourhood, we would expect one additional diabetes case, assuming a causal relationship between the fast food outlet and diabetes,’ said the authors in an article for Public Health Nutrition.
‘In a multi-ethnic region of the UK, individuals had on average two fast food outlets within 500m of their home,’ said Professor Kamlesh Khunti, Professor of Primary Care Diabetes & Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester. ‘This number differed substantially by key demographics, including ethnicity; people of non-white ethnicity had more than twice the number of fast food outlets in their neighbourhood compared with White Europeans. We found that the number of fast food outlets in a person’s neighbourhood was associated with an increased risk of screen-detected Type-2 diabetes and obesity.’
The pattern also held in areas that were socially deprived.
Type-2 diabetes occurs when a person produces too little insulin, a hormone that regulates the body’s metabolism. Unlike Type-1 diabetes, which is caused by a non-functional pancreas, Type-2 comes about through failure to produce sufficient insulin. Type-2 is also related to factors such as lack of exercise, unhealthy diets and obesity. Type-2 accounts for 90 per cent of all diabetes cases in the UK, according to the NHS.
‘This work has several notable strengths; namely, it is the first study, to our knowledge, to look at the association between the number of neighbourhood fast food outlets and Type-2 diabetes in a multi-ethnic population. Although it is not possible to infer causal effect, our study found that plausible causal mechanisms exist,’ added Dr Patrice Carter, a co-author of the study.