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Fast Food Is King of the Neighborhood, Study Reports
Date:7/12/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- Into America's fight against obesity comes new research pitting fast food against fruits and veggies, and fast food, it seems, is the winner.

Researchers found that so-called "food deserts," where there are few or no supermarkets and fast food is what's most available, tend to draw locals to the fast food. But in areas where there are also supermarkets and grocery stores, food choices appear unrelated to healthy eating.

"It's not enough to say we will build it [supermarkets] and people will come," said lead researcher Penny Gordon-Larsen, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Public Health in Chapel Hill.

For the study, Gordon-Larsen's team used data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study to look at fast food consumption vs. eating more fruits and vegetables based on the availability of fast food restaurants and supermarkets and grocery stores in neighborhoods in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland.

The researchers asked a total of 5,115 people in these areas how often they ate fast food, and had them detail their diet in the past month and also their usual dietary habits.

Among those living in low-income areas, there was a strong association between the availability of fast food and how much of it was part of their diet, the researchers found. This association was particularly strong among men who lived within one to two miles of a fast food restaurant.

However, there was no strong association between living near a supermarket and eating more fruits or vegetables, the researchers said.

Gordon-Larsen said healthy foods need to be affordable, and there needs to be a concerted effort to promote healthy eating, includes educating people about healthy food choices available in fast food restaurants and grocery stores.

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