Presence of Fast Food Places Can Increase Risk of Obesity, New Study Shows

See no evil, eat no evil. That’s what new research has found might be the key for keeping those double cheeseburger cravings at bay.

A new study from the University of Cambridge found that more fast-food establishments located near your job might lead to increased chances of struggling with obesity. That’s especially true for folks whose commutes tend to be a bit of a haul, as longer time on the road ups your chances of passing multiple fast-food places. The 5,500-person study surveyed people between the ages of 29 and 62 who lived in Cambridgeshire in the United Kingdom.

But the link between more junk-food places and weight issues seems a bit self-evident, doesn’t it?

“Up to this point, it’s really just been based on a hunch,” Thomas Burgoine, the lead author of the study, told NPR last week. But now, there’s scientific evidence to suggest the claims are more than just intuition. Burgoine is also a research associate at the Center for Diet and Activity Research in the U.K.

Based on what Burgoine found in the study, the basic breakdown of the formula can be thought of like this. You have your workplace, your commute route and your home — and all the junk-food joints that surround them. Those three spheres of influence can create a cumulative effect that overpowers your better judgment and leaves you heading straight to the drive-thru line yet again.

Just look at how much time you actually get for a midday lunch break. If it’s only 30 minutes (or even 60), you’re probably inclined to opt for the convenient options. And what’s more convenient than fast food? Its name alone boasts how easy it really is to pick up a meal under a time crunch. The study found that fast-food restaurants were 48% more common in workplace neighborhoods than residential ones.

That’s not accidental, Burgoine says, and points to the recent explosion of fast-food places opening up in both the U.S. and the U.K. in recent years. But there might be hope on the horizon as local lawmakers are currently viewing their options for restricting the number of fast-food establishments in certain neighborhoods.

“As the number of restaurants and restaurant visits have increased, so has chronic health problems and obesity rates,” says Kellie Hill, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner at The Right Plan. “Restaurant portion sizes have quadrupled in the United States. The solution is to take back your kitchen, packing healthy lunches and snacks.”

As NPR points out, obesity risks aren’t only a matter of proximity. There are plenty of factors that influence dietary habits, including economic standing, lifestyle choices and even education level. But no one would argue that fast food could actually help cut obesity risks. Until the next study gets released, that is.

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