Does Living Near Fast Food Restaurants Actually Cause Obesity?

Obesity rates in America have been steadily rising for the past 20 years, with the country's percentage of obesity prevalence increasing from 30.5% to 42.4% in the years between 1999 and 2018, according to the CDC. One of the most commonly accused culprits for the rising obesity epidemic is the prevalence of fast food.

There is no denying fast food is not the healthiest diet choice, and eating too much of the sodium, fat, and calorie-laden meals has been shown to increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even heart disease. Eating too much fast food can also have negative effects on the skin, decrease bone density and muscle mass, increase the risk of developing asthma, and may even lead to higher rates of depression, according to Healthline. Most of us probably already know that we should limit our fast food intake, but does simply living near a fast food restaurant make it more difficult to resist the call of greasy food?

There is little correlation between weight gain and proximity to fast food restaurants in adults

Some previous studies may have seemed to indicate the proximity to fast food may lead to increased rates of obesity, especially as it pertains to children. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Public Health showed that children who lived near fast food outlets were more likely to gain weight. However, socioeconomic status may also play an important role, as fast food restaurants are much more prevalent in lower income neighborhoods than in wealthy areas.

But can mere proximity to a McDonald's or Taco Bell increase your chances of gaining weight as an adult? A recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity seems to indicate that this is not the case. The researchers did not find evidence to suggest that living near fast food restaurants increases obesity rates in adults, as Eat This Not That reports. Instead, the study reported there was very little correlation between adult weight gain and living near fast food restaurants. So while it is important to be mindful of environmental triggers, simply living near lots of fast food restaurants doesn't mean you will inevitably gain weight. Making smart diet choices, cooking instead of eating out, and getting regular exercise will have a much bigger impact on your waistline than living next door to a Taco Bell.