The past weeks I’ve been traveling with me wife and kids, doing a roundtrip of California. We’ve had a blast, but to be honest: the food sometimes was an issue. With so many fast food restaurants we had to explain our kids that McDo wasn’t an option. And while it seems logical that more fast food available means more fast food consumption, our kids didn’t have any kind of fast food during our trip. (We did eat hamburgers, I personally loved the burger they server me in a place called Jacks in Bishop, Ca). Maybe this study is correct as it investigated the influence of fast-food availability on fast-food consumption and didn’t find a link as individual differences influence how the availability is perceived and its effect. And maybe a bigger surprise, this is maybe not that good news, because one of the consequences might be that limiting neighborhood fast-food availability might not be as effective as hoped…
The study was published in Appetite and was conducted by Nathalie Oexle, Timothy L. Barnes, Christine E. Blake, Bethany A. Bell and Angela D. Liese.
Abstract from the study:
Recent nutritional and public health research has focused on how the availability of various types of food in a person’s immediate area or neighborhood influences his or her food choices and eating habits. It has been theorized that people living in areas with a wealth of unhealthy fast-food options may show higher levels of fast-food consumption, a factor that often coincides with being overweight or obese. However, measuring food availability in a particular area is difficult to achieve consistently: there may be differences in the strict physical locations of food options as compared to how individuals perceive their personal food availability, and various studies may use either one or both of these measures. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between weekly fast-food consumption and both a person’s perceived availability of fast-food and an objective measure of fast-food presence – Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – within that person’s neighborhood. A randomly selected population-based sample of eight counties in South Carolina was used to conduct a cross-sectional telephone survey assessing self-report fast-food consumption and perceived availability of fast food. GIS was used to determine the actual number of fast-food outlets within each participant’s neighborhood. Using multinomial logistic regression analyses, we found that neither perceived availability nor GIS-based presence of fast-food was significantly associated with weekly fast-food consumption. Our findings indicate that availability might not be the dominant factor influencing fast-food consumption. We recommend using subjective availability measures and considering individual characteristics that could influence both perceived availability of fast food and its impact on fast-food consumption. If replicated, our findings suggest that interventions aimed at reducing fast-food consumption by limiting neighborhood fast-food availability might not be completely effective.