Fast Food and Obesity: A Spatial Analysis in a Large United Kingdom Population of Children Aged 13–15

American Journal of Preventive MedicineAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine, May 2012, Vol. 42, No. 5

“Background: The childhood obesity epidemic is a current public health priority in many countries, and the consumption of fast food has been associated with obesity.

“Purpose: This study aims to assess the relationship between fast-food consumption and obesity as well as the relationship between fast-food outlet access and consumption in a cohort of United Kingdom teenagers.

“Methods: A weighted accessibility score of the number of fast-food outlets within a 1-km network buffer of the participant’s residence at age 13 years was calculated. Geographically weighted regression was used to assess the relationships between fast-food consumption at age 13 years and weight status at ages 13 and 15 years, and separately between fast-food accessibility and consumption. Data were collected from 2004 to 2008.

Results of geographically weighted regression model of fast-food consumption; local coefficients with t-value contours

Results of geographically weighted regression model of fast-food consumption; local coefficients with t-value contours

“Results: The consumption of fast food was associated with a higher BMI SD score (^^0.08, 95% CI^0.03, 0.14); higher body fat percentage (^^2.06, 95% CI^1.33, 2.79); and increased odds of being obese (OR^1.23, 95% CI^1.02, 1.49). All these relationships were stationary and did not vary over space in the study area. The relationship between the accessibility of outlets and consumption did vary over space, with some areas (more rural areas) showing that increased accessibility was associated with consumption, whereas in some urban areas increased accessibility was associated with lack of consumption.

“Conclusions: There is continued need for nutritional education regarding fast food, but public health interventions that place restrictions on the location of fast-food outlets may not uniformly decrease consumption.”