A new study examines the relationship between heart attacks and fast food chain-proximity.
Heart disease, including heart attacks, are one of the leading causes of death around the world. A diet full of fast foods, which are commonly high in saturated fat and salt and low in nutritional value, has previously been connected to heart disease. A new study out of Australia finds that living in an area with fast food chains directly increases the likelihood of heart issues, independent of many other risk factors. These findings highlight food-access and community planning issues that are relevant across the globe.
"The findings were consistent across rural and metropolitan areas of New South Wales and after adjusting for age, obesity, high blood lipids, high blood pressure, smoking status and diabetes. The results emphasize the importance of the food environment as a potential contributor towards health,” study author Tarunpreet Saluja of the University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia told EurekAlert.
Saluja’s retrospective cohort study used data on 3,070 patients who had heart attacks in the Hunter Region between 2011 and 2013. The patients’ home address, postal code and the surrounding food environment were analyzed, focusing on the ten most popular fast food retailers in Australia. Saluja said his study clarifies the relationship “between greater access to these restaurants” and heart disease. “This is why [European Society of Cardiology (ESC)] guidelines recommend the regulation of fast food outlet density in community settings."
Professor Jeroen Bax, former ESC president and course director of the ESC 2019 CSANZ program, said, "In addition to regulating the location and density of fast food outlets, local areas should ensure good access to supermarkets with healthy food."
Around the world, policies that take food access into consideration can prevent the growth of “food deserts,” defined by the American Nutrition Association as areas “vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” Food deserts can develop because of the placement of stores and restaurants (as described in this study), high food prices, deficits in public transit, residents not owning vehicles or having limited mobility, and other factors. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) runs a food-access map and atlas that covers food access indicators and information, including “census-tract-level data on food access that can be downloaded for community planning or research purposes.”
"Impact of Fast food Outlet Density on Incidence of Acute Myocardial Infarction in the Hunter Region" was presented at the 67th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ) in August in Adelaide, Australia, during the "Clinical/Surgery Mini Oral Session" on Saturday, August 10. The ESC and CSANZ held joint sessions.