Neighbourhoods with more fast food outlets are also neighbourhoods with more heart disease

A new study has found that neighbourhoods with more fast food outlets are also neighbourhoods with more heart disease and death, and, it has nothing to do with how rich or poor a neighbourhood might be.

The relationship between fast food and adverse outcomes was the same.

The research by the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences (ICES), looked at food chains in one province, Ontario.

ICES scientist, Dr. David Alter, says the findings are a wake-up call for everyone at a time when obesity rates in adults and children are rising rapidly across the nation.

Alter says that though the study focused on Ontario, the findings carry a critical message that can be generalized across regions in Canada and other jurisdictions where fast food is readily available.

ICES, in its current press release says there is an urgent need for Canadians to think about what they eat, since fast food is so readily available and easy, given the busy lifestyles people lead.

The researchers looked at 380 regions across Ontario, using a list of what they determined were the top nine fast food chains in 2001, they calculated the per capita rate of those fast food outlets.

They then compared the data they'd gathered to per capita mortality rates in each region, and to the rate of hospitalization for acute coronary syndromes such as chest pains and heart attacks, and found that areas with greater numbers of fast-food services had higher rates of hospital admissions and death for coronary problems.

The ICES study found that a region with 10-19 fast food outlets per 100,000 people saw its mortality rate go up by 35 cases per 100,000 over the normal rate.

And, a region with 20 or more outlets saw its mortality rate go up, over the norm, by 62 cases per 100,000. Similar results were found when it came to cases of heart attacks and chest pains.

Alter says more needs to be done to promote healthy eating, and healthy lifestyles, and disincentives put in place to curtail fast-food demand and promote the consumption of healthier food in high-mortality regions. He thinks there is a particular need to have "targeted health promotion and prevention strategies in communities with the poorest health profiles and the poorest lifestyle behaviours.

The study is published in the May issue of the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

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