Being around takeaway food outlets raises the odds of being obese

Harold Mandel's picture
A fattening fast food cheeseburger

Obesity has become an epidemic problem across the world. The serious health conditions which are associated with obesity such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and emotional problems makes obesity worth fighting. Clearly, poor dietary patterns with a lack of adequate exercise are associated with a higher risk for obesity. And so aside from encouraging more daily exercise, it is also advisable to persuade people to stay away from unhealthy fattening foods.

Researchers in the United Kingdom have found there is an association between exposure to takeaway food outlets, takeaway food consumption, and body weight, reported the British Medical Journal in this research article. The researchers decided to examine the association which exists between environmental exposure to takeaway food outlets, takeaway food consumption, and body weight, while taking into consideration home, workplace, and commuting route environments. The participants in this study were all working adults.

The researchers found that exposure to takeaway food outlets was positively associated with the consumption of takeaway food. In a comparison of domains at home, at work, and along commuting routes, associations were found to be strongest in work environments where there was evidence of a dose-response effect. Combined exposure was observed to be particularly strongly associated with increased body mass index and odds of obesity.

It was concluded that exposure to takeaway food outlets in home, work, and commuting environments combined was associated with the following:

1: A marginally increased consumption of takeaway food

2: Greater body mass index


3: Greater odds of obesity

It has been suggested that government strategies which have a goal of promoting healthier diets through planning restrictions for takeaway food could be most effective if they are focused around the workplace.

Higher exposure to takeaway food outlets could actually double the odds of being obese, reports the British Medical Journal in a discussion of this research. The researchers basically came to the conclusion that people who are exposed to takeaway food outlets near their home, at work and on their way to work are more likely to consume more of these foods, as well as being more likely to be obese.

In the United Kingdom it has been noted that consumption of food away from home has increased by 29 percent while the number of takeaways has increased dramatically. It is the opinion of the researchers that this could be contributing to rising levels of overweight and obesity. The researchers who decided to examine the extent to which exposure to takeaway food outlets in home and non-home environments was associated with eating takeaway foods, BMI and ikelihood of being overweight or obese, were from the University of Cambridge.

In this study individuals were found to be exposed to 48 percent more takeaway outlets at work than at home. The average exposure when home and work neighborhoods and commuting routes were combined was 32 outlets. It has been highlighted that in consideration of domains at home, at work, and along commuting routes, associations between takeaway exposure and diet were consistently strongest in work environments, with evidence of a dose-response association.

A combination of all three domains showed evidence of a positive and significant dose-response relationship between takeaway outlet exposure and takeaway food consumption. There was consumption of an additional 5.7 grams per day among the most exposed group of people in comparison with the least exposed group. Those most exposed overall were found to be almost twice as likely to be obese, in comparison to those least exposed.

This study does not prove a causal link between environments and obesity.However, this is the first study of takeaway food outlet exposure at home, at work and during the daily commute. The researchers found an environmental contribution to the consumption of takeaway foods, and particularly to body mass index and the odds of being obese. Kathryn Neckerman from the Columbia Population Research Center in New York says instead of trying to replace these fast-food outlets, we should “seek to transform them," with the feeling that in the food environment, what really matters is the menu, dealing with what food is offered, at what price, not the venue.

I have often noticed people in work environments finding the time to consume a great deal of fattening junk food from fast food outlets when they are conveniently located to their places of work. The benefits for burning calories by getting up and out to work instead of staying around the home are clearly often countered in this manner. It is therefore very important to encourage people to avoid unhealthy fattening foods in all domains of their lives, particularly when they are in work environments with takeaway food outlets nearby.