Globally, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is increasing. Study published April 26 in the open access journal PLOS Medicine by Marisa Miraldo at Imperial College Business School, London, United Kingdom, and colleagues suggest that living near fast food restaurants increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Food environments affect diet and obesity – two risk factors for T2DM. However, the relationship between food environments and diet in low and middle income countries is poorly understood. To examine the links between the density and proximity of healthy and unhealthy food outlets and diabetes, researchers linked cross-sectional health data with environment mapping surveys for 12,167 people living in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka from 2018-2020. They collected the history of self-reported diabetes diagnosis and fasting blood glucose levels from residents of urban and rural areas. The researchers then mapped the food environment, collecting data on the location and types of food retailers available within 300 meters of each participant’s home, categorizing each type of food outlet as healthy or unhealthy.
The researchers found that a higher density of fast food outlets near an individual’s home was associated with an 8% increase in their likelihood of being diagnosed with diabetes. Having at least one fast food retailer near your home was associated with a 2.14 mg/dL increase in blood glucose. In addition, women and high income earners were more likely to have higher levels of diabetes mellitus. The study was limited by several factors, including the self-reported data on diabetes diagnosis. The study also did not account for the participants’ actual diets, which may have come far from their homes, and may have been confounded by other diabetes-related variables. Future studies are needed to validate and expand on how food environments can affect individuals’ diet and health.
According to the authors, “Our results indicate that interventions targeting the environment may be effective in preventing diabetes, however, the heterogeneity of effects found in our analysis suggests that more specific interventions may be needed . One-size-fits-all built environment interventions have not led to improved outcomes and future research is needed to evaluate which food environment interventions might improve diabetes outcomes in this geographic region and population.”
“In South Asia diabetes affects 1 in 11 adults and causes 747,000 preventable deaths each year,” adds Miraldo. “Our research shows that living close to at least one fast food outlet is associated with a 16% increase in the chance of being diagnosed with diabetes. With the projection that the number of people with diabetes in South East Asia will to reach 113 million by 2030, essential food and drink companies and retailers are stepping up their sustainability agendas to promote better diets and prevent diabetes.”
Materials are provided by PLOS. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.