Researchers say a new study on whether a person’s proximity to certain food options causes obesity sets itself apart from past projects.
The findings indicate policies to reduce the number of fast food places or even open more markets will not likely reduce obesity. Indiana University environmental affairs professor Coady Wing was part of a team of researchers involved in a recent study.
“Just because there is a fast food restaurant nearby doesn’t mean you have to eat at it, and just because there is a supermarket selling healthy food nearby doesn’t mean you do have to eat it,” says Wing.
Several studies over the years determined people living close to certain food outlets, like fast food restaurants, have a higher body mass index, or BMI.
Wing and his team followed nearly two million veterans over five years and analyzed the data three different ways. One way considered migration and changing food environments.
“So when we look at that analysis, which we think is the most credible,” Wing says. “We find no effect, no effect of living close to these places on your BMI.”
The study also looked at low-income areas that often have limited access to healthy food options and a higher number of fast food outlets.
“We did not find that it mattered more or less there, it also had no relationship to BMI, but there are some limitations,” Wing says.
Wing says, for example, the research couldn’t account for lack of transportation. Also the veteran population analyzed are not reflective of the general population – they’re older, with more men.