Study Finds Links between Fast Food Restaurants and Higher Rates of Type 2 Diabetes

Rear view. Two men choose food in a fast food restaurant. Bar snack concept .Mounting evidence shows a direct correlation between people living in neighborhoods with higher availability of fast-food outlets and the likelihood of residents’ chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. Findings have also suggested that the availability of more supermarkets impacts the amount of type 2 diabetes cases, particularly in rural and suburban neighborhoods.

One study published in the JAMA Network Open used data from a cohort of more than 9-million veterans living across the country. The study counted fast-food restaurants and supermarkets relative to other food outlets to examine the relationship between the availability of this food and health issues.


According to researchers, this study is the first to explore this relationship in four distinct neighborhoods (high density urban, low density urban, rural, and suburban).

“Most studies that examine the built food environment and its relationship to chronic diseases have been much smaller or conducted in localized areas,” said Rania Kanchi, MPH, lead author of the study.

“Our study design is national in scope and allowed us to identify the types of communities that people are living in, characterize their food environment, and observe what happens to them over time. The size of our cohort allows for geographic generalizability in a way that other studies do not.”

Researchers analyzed more than 9 million veterans seen at more than 1,200 health facilities around the country. Using the data, researchers constructed a national cohort of more than 4,000,000 veterans without diabetes. Each veteran’s health status was followed for a median of five and a half years, or until the individual either developed diabetes, died, or had no more appointments for more than two years.

When researchers analyzed community types, 14.3% of veterans living in high-density urban communities were found to have developed type 2 diabetes. The lowest incidence (12.6%) was among veterans residing in suburban and small-town communities.


Overall, it was established that the effect of the food environment on type 2 diabetes incidence varied by how urban the community was and the availability of fast-food outlets. A neighborhood-built environment with high availability of poor food choices directly correlated with the likelihood that residents may develop chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers. These residents are also at greater risk of disability, obesity, and other chronic conditions.

Policymakers Need to Make Improvements

Researchers believe that the more that is learned about the relationship between food environment and chronic diseases, the more policymakers can act by improving the mix of healthy food options for its residents.

The next phase of the research would be to understand better the built environment’s impact on diabetes risk by subgroups. Researchers plan to analyze the relationships between fast-food restaurants, supermarkets, and community types such as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender.

Author Bio

Sarah began her interest in nutritional healing at an early age. After going through health problems and becoming frustrated with the conventional ways doctors wanted to treat her illness (which were not working), she took it upon herself to find alternative treatments. This led her to revolutionize her own diet to help her get healthier and tackle her health problems. She began treating her illness by living a more balanced lifestyle through healthy food choices, exercise and other alternative medicine such as meditation. This total positive lifestyle change led her to earn a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from Health Sciences Academy in London, England. Today, Sarah enjoys helping others by teaching healthy lifestyle changes through her personal consultations and with her regular contributions to the Doctors Health Press. Also, passionate about following her dreams in life, Sarah moved to France and lived in Paris for over 5 years where she earned a certification in beadwork and embroidery from Lesage (an atelier owned by Chanel). She then went on to be a familiar face sitting front row and reporting from Paris Fashion Week. Sarah continues to practice some of the cultural ways of life she learned while in Europe. They enjoy their food, and take the time to relax and enjoy many of life’s little moments. These are life lessons she is glad to have brought back home with her.