Fast-food density and neighborhood walkability affect residents' weight and waist size

March 3, 2009

In a research article published recently by the American Journal of Epidemiology, Oregon Research Institute (ORI) scientist Fuzhong Li, Ph.D., and colleagues show that a high-density of fast food outlets was associated with an increase of 3 pounds in weight and .8 inches in waist circumference among neighborhood residents who frequently ate at those restaurants. In contrast, high-walkability neighborhoods were associated with a decrease of 2.7 pounds in weight and 0.6 inches in waist size among residents who increased their levels of vigorous physical activity during a one-year period.

"This is one of the few longitudinal studies that focus on change in individuals' body weight over time in relation to their lifestyle behaviors and immediate living environments," noted Dr. Li. "The uniqueness of this study lies in its environment-person approach which we use to show that health-impeding environments, such as a high density of fast-food outlets, together with residents' behavior, such as eating fast food regularly, can have an unhealthy impact on body weight. On the other hand, health-promoting environments, such as walkable neighborhood streets, in conjunction with physically active residents, can have a positive impact on body weight over time." said Dr. Li.

The study is part of the Portland Oregon Neighborhood Environment and Health Study where researchers are following a sample of over 1200 local residents ages 50-75 years old over a three-year period using anthropometric and survey measures, such as body weight, height, eating habits, food intake, physical activity, and perceptions of their immediate neighborhood environment. Researchers have also taken objective measures of built environment characteristics, such as land-use mix, density of fast-food outlets, street connectivity, & public transit stations, and the presence of green & open spaces in 120 randomly selected neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon. The overall objective of the research project is to examine change in body weight and physical activity in relation to built environment.

"To combat the obesity/overweight problem, it appears clear that, from the perspectives of public health and urban design, efforts are needed to improve features of modifiable built environments by making them more conducive to healthy eating and increasing physical activity," noted Li.

Source: Oregon Research Institute

Explore further: Exchanging sedentariness for low-intensity physical activity can prevent weight gain in children

Related Stories

Rap1, a potential new target to treat obesity

October 21, 2016

Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have discovered a new mechanism in the mouse brain that regulates obesity. The study, which appears ...

Chronobiology—internal clocks in synch

October 14, 2016

Ludwig II of Bavaria is a particularly striking example of how differently people's internal clocks can tick. Historical sources tell us that the monarch usually carried out his government business at night and slept during ...

Recommended for you

Want to exercise more? Get yourself some competition

October 27, 2016

Imagine you're a CEO trying to get your employees to exercise. Most health incentive programs have an array of tools—pamphlets, websites, pedometers, coaching, team activities, step challenges, money—but what actually ...

Sleep loss tied to changes of the gut microbiota in humans

October 25, 2016

Results from a new clinical study conducted at Uppsala University suggest that curtailing sleep alters the abundance of bacterial gut species that have previously been linked to compromised human metabolic health. The new ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.