Presence of fast food restaurants in cities linked to more HEART ATTACKS, warn scientists
It’s no secret that fast foods are bad for human health, posing both short- and long-term consequences. But cutting back on fast foods might be easier said than done if there is an abundance of fast food restaurants.
In fact, scientists find that a higher number of fast food joints do not just promote poor food choices. It also corresponds to a greater incidence of heart attacks independent of other risk factors, according to a team of researchers from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
The research findings also underscore the role of greater access to fast food restaurants and the ubiquitous presence of these restaurants in determining consumer health, according to lead author Tarunpreet Saluja.
Higher number of fast food restaurants linked to a greater incidence of heart attack
Past studies demonstrated that high amounts of salt and saturated fat in fast foods are connected to ischemic heart disease and heart attacks, Saluja explained. But the role of greater access to fast food joints has been unclear.
To determine if the ubiquitous presence of fast food restaurants influences poor consumer health, Saluja and his team studied a cohort of 3,070 patients that had been hospitalized due to a heart attack from 2011 to 2013.
The patients come from rural and metropolitan areas in the Hunter Region of Australia. The researchers used the patients’ home postcode according to the hospital database to examine the distribution of fast food restaurants in each of their neighborhoods.
The researchers then compared areas against each other to determine if greater access to fast food restaurants affected heart attack incidence. Their results indicated that areas that had more fast food restaurants also had higher numbers of heart attack patients.
Therefore, based on these findings, the ubiquitous presence of fast food restaurants in both rural and urban areas needs to be considered in promoting consumer health, according to Saluja.
The research had been presented at the 67th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ).
Greater access to fast food corresponds to bad food choices and poor nutrition
The ESC-led research isn’t the first to demonstrate that greater access to fast food corresponded to serious risks and consequences on health. (Related: Fast food prior to pregnancy found to increase risk of gestational diabetes.)
In 2018, a team of Dutch researchers used public health registries to track about 2.5 million adults aged at least 35 years in the Netherlands for one year.
The researchers looked for major health outcomes like heart disease, stroke and heart failure among the participants. They also used each participant’s home address to estimate their proximity to the fast food restaurants in their respective areas.
The participants also had to have lived at the same address for a minimum period of 15 years so that the researchers could assess the long-term impact of their location in relation to their fast food consumption and overall health.
The findings revealed that 2.5 percent of the participants developed heart disease or heart failure or had a stroke incident during the research period.
Participants living just half a mile from fast food joints also had a greater likelihood of developing heart disease. The results remained the same even after the researchers accounted for biological factors that influence heart disease risk.
The team hopes that their findings might help underscore the importance of adopting a balanced diet and limiting the consumption of fast food.