A new study has found that people who do not own a car, and live in areas where there are a number of fast food restaurants, may be at an increased risk of becoming obese.
American researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have observed that people who live in areas with high fast food concentration and do not have a car are as much as 12 pounds heavier, compared to those living in neighbourhoods that lack such restaurants.
"Owning a car is generally associated with a more sedentary lifestyle and excess weight gain because people spend more time in their cars and less time walking," said Dr. Sanae Inagami, study lead author and assistant professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Yet, her research team looked at whether a high concentration of fast food restaurants impacted this association, and found that not owning a car in areas where fast food was more readily available increased the risk of obesity.
"Fast food may be specific to weight gain in particular populations and locations. People who are less affluent don't own cars and can't go distances for healthier foods. As a result, they may end up opting for the lower-priced and high caloric foods available at fast food chains," she said.
As part of the study, the researchers surveyed 2,156 adults in 63 neighbourhoods in Los Angeles County.
They observed that car owners, on average, weighed 8.5 pounds more than non-car owners, except in areas with high fast food concentration-five fast food restaurants per mile.
The researchers say that non-car owners in high fast food concentration areas were found to weigh 2.7 pounds more than car owners who lived in the same areas, and 12 pounds more than residents of areas without fast food outlets.
According to them, people who did not own a car, and lived in areas without fast food outlets, weighed the least.
"There has been a major focus on fast food and its impact on individual health, but we need to consider the availability of all types of restaurants at individual and community levels," Sanae said.
"Since our study showed that total restaurant density was associated with weight gain in all individuals, not just those who did not own cars, we also need to encourage people to pay more attention to their food environment," she added.