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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Are fast food restaurants an environmental risk factor for obesity?

Robert W Jeffery1*, Judy Baxter1, Maureen McGuire2 and Jennifer Linde1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, 1300 South 2nd Street, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55454-1015, USA

2 Guidant Corporation, Cardiac Rhythm Management Group, 4100 Hamline Ave., St. Paul, MN 55112, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2006, 3:2  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-3-2

Published: 25 January 2006

Abstract

Objective

Eating at "fast food" restaurants has increased and is linked to obesity. This study examined whether living or working near "fast food" restaurants is associated with body weight.

Methods

A telephone survey of 1033 Minnesota residents assessed body height and weight, frequency of eating at restaurants, and work and home addresses. Proximity of home and work to restaurants was assessed by Global Index System (GIS) methodology.

Results

Eating at "fast food" restaurants was positively associated with having children, a high fat diet and Body Mass Index (BMI). It was negatively associated with vegetable consumption and physical activity. Proximity of "fast food" restaurants to home or work was not associated with eating at "fast food" restaurants or with BMI. Proximity of "non-fast food" restaurants was not associated with BMI, but was associated with frequency of eating at those restaurants.

Conclusion

Failure to find relationships between proximity to "fast food" restaurants and obesity may be due to methodological weaknesses, e.g. the operational definition of "fast food" or "proximity", or homogeneity of restaurant proximity. Alternatively, the proliferation of "fast food" restaurants may not be a strong unique cause of obesity.