People living near takeaways ‘are fatter’

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SHOCKING evidence of the impact of takeaways on the country’s obesity crisis is revealed today in a study which finds people who live or work near fast food restaurants eat more junk food and are almost twice as likely to be obese as those with none on their doorstep.

Those most tempted by takeaways and fast food eat the equivalent of half a small serving of McDonald’s fries every week compared to those who stay away.

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Working near a fast food place or takeaway caused the biggest problems, closely followed their location near the home.

The research, published online in the British Medical Journal, is the first UK study to combine data from home, work and commuting, involving 5,442 adults from Cambridgeshire aged 29 to 62. On average, people were exposed to 32 takeaways - nine each in their local neighbourhood and on their commute, and 14 within a mile of work.

Diners exposed to the highest number of takeaways were 80 per cent more likely to be obese and 20 per cent more likely to have a higher body-mass index (BMI) than those with the lowest number of encounters. They also ate more of these types of foods.

Thomas Burgoine, lead author of the study from the UK’s centre for diet and activity research at Cambridge University, said: “The foods we eat away from home tend to be less healthy than the meals we prepare ourselves, so it is important to consider how exposure to food outlets selling these high calorie foods in our day-to-day environments might be influencing consumption.

“Of course this is likely to be just one of a number of factors that contribute to a person’s risk of developing obesity. However, our findings do suggest that taking steps to restrict takeaway outlets in our towns and cities, particularly around workplaces, may be one way of positively influencing our diet and health.”

In the past decade, consumption of food outside the home has increased by 29 per cent, while at the same time, the number of takeaway food outlets has increased dramatically, potentially contributing to rising levels of obesity, the researchers said.

Tracy Parker, heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the study, said: “While this study can’t prove someone’s local environment can cause them to become obese, it’s vital we have the tools to make healthy choices when eating takeaways or food in a restaurant. Clearly signposting healthy meal options, providing clear nutritional information, and offering appropriate portion sizes can help this.”

Alison Tedstone, director of diet and obesity at Public Health England, said: “Regularly consuming these types of foods may increase the risk of excess calorie intake, which leads to weight gain which increases your risk of some cancers, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. We have produced guidance on the regulation of takeaway fast food outlets which provides local authorities with recommendations such as using fast food outlet exclusion zones in school areas.”