Human Environments Analysis Lab (HEAL)

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Canadian Journal of Public Health





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OBJECTIVE: Frequent fast-food consumption is a well-known risk factor for obesity. This study sought to determine whether the availability of fast-food restaurants has an influence on body mass index (BMI).

METHODS: BMI and individual-level confounding variables were obtained from the 2007-08 Canadian Community Health Survey. Neighbourhood socio-demographic variables were acquired from the 2006 Canadian Census. The geographic locations of all restaurants in Canada were assembled from a validated business registry database. The density of fast-food, full-service and non-chain restaurants per 10,000 individuals was calculated for respondents’ forward sortation area. Multivariable regression analyses were conducted to analyze the association between restaurant density and BMI.

RESULTS: Fast-food, full-service and non-chain restaurant density variables were statistically significantly associated with BMI. Fast-food density had a positive association whereas full-service and non-chain restaurant density had a negative association with BMI (additional 10 fast-food restaurants per capita corresponded to a weight increase of 1 kilogram; p<0.001). These associations were primarily found in Canada’s major urban jurisdictions.

CONCLUSIONS: This research was the first to investigate the influence of fast-food and full-service restaurant density on BMI using individual-level data from a nationally representative Canadian survey. The finding of a positive association between fast-food restaurant density and BMI suggests that interventions aiming to restrict the availability of fast-food restaurants in local neighbourhoods may be a useful obesity prevention strategy.


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