Over the last ten years, there has been an effort to use demographic research and geographic research across densely populated areas to show where there are food deserts of a more than one-mile distance to a grocery store. The idea was that if fresh food wasn’t readily available, obesity rates spiked and health rates declined as a result of obesity. The one-mile distance was considered a convenient enough walking distance to counteract any transportation issues.
According to the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity paper, “The relationship between food swamps and obesity was especially strong in areas where people lacked both their own cars and access to public transportation.”
However, new studies show it isn’t only the availability of healthy food and fresh produce but also the detriment of readily available fast food in neighborhoods. The latter has been found to be more of a draw for those of lower income and has a greater detrimental effect on health.
Fast food is typically very high in calories, trans-fats and highly processed ingredients filled with preservatives to preserve shelf life. Artificial trans-fats which are vegetable oils with added hydrogen became a common product used for shelf-stable solid fat use, popular in fast food. This type of product has been in use since the 1950’s in the U.S. and since that time, heart attack rates have risen steadily. These rates are only now in decline since 2006 and the required listing of trans-fats on packaging. All of these factors have been shown to contribute to predictable obesity and subsequent disease.
According to a National Institute of Health study the relationship has shown, “food swamps have a positive, statistically significant effect on adult obesity rates.”
So what’s the real issue?
Obesity is now linked to higher risk factor for 22 different types of cancer, higher than any other health factor. Obesity is a clear, direct risk to adult onset / type II diabetes, and heart disease.
While some cities are looking at zoning regulations to limit new fast food restaurants, this is another clear link between fast food and obesity, and for the sake of our health, we should be limiting, if not fully avoiding fast food.
What can you do? No matter what you’re making, home cooking, prepared from fresh ingredients and produce makes a meaningful impact to health. From increased vitamin and mineral content, to limitation of preservatives, trans-fats, salt and sugar, home-cooked meals could never deliver the science lab experiment that is created in fast food warehouses and shipped frozen nation-wide. Even if only meal a week, make a plan to increase your home-made meals.