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Fast-Food Outlets, Bars Aren't Great Neighbors for Your Heart
  • Posted February 27, 2024

Fast-Food Outlets, Bars Aren't Great Neighbors for Your Heart

Living close to a pub, bar or fast-food restaurant doesn't do your heart any favors, a new study finds.

Folks who live in close proximity to such establishments have a higher risk of heart failure, compared to those who live farther away, researchers report in the Feb. 27 issue of the journal Circulation: Heart Failure

These findings weren't a complete surprise, said senior researcher Dr. Lu Qi, a professor of epidemiology at Tulane University in New Orleans.

“Previous studies have suggested that exposure to ready-to-eat food environments is associated with risks of other disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, which may also increase the risk of heart failure,” Qi noted in a journal news release.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from the U.K. Biobank, a database containing health information for more than 500,000 adults in the United Kingdom.

The team measured study participants' exposure to three different types of food environments -- pubs or bars, restaurants or cafeterias, and fast-food joints.

These kinds of ready-to-eat establishments typically provide unhealthy foods and drinks, Qi said.

The researchers specifically looked at whether people lived within a 15-minute walk of these eateries, as well as the number of such places located within such an easy walking distance.

The study tracked nearly 13,000 heart failure cases during a 12-year follow-up period, and found that close proximity to a high number of eateries was associated with an increased risk of heart failure.

Specifically, folks who lived within a 15-minute walk of 11 or more eateries had a 16% greater risk of heart failure than those with no such restaurants or bars near their homes.

Those in high-density areas of pubs and bars had a 14% increased risk of heart failure, while those in high-density fast-food areas had a 12% higher risk.

Participants who lived closest to pubs and bars, within about a third of a mile, had a 13% increased risk of heart failure, and those living closest to fast-food outlets had a 10% higher risk.

Heart failure risk was higher among people without a college degree and adults in urban areas without access to exercise facilities like gyms, results show.

These finding suggest that improving access to healthier food and exercise facilities in urban areas could reduce the increased risk of heart failure linked to quick-meal options.

Future research should focus specifically on how proximity to eateries affects the heart health of ethnic and minority groups, an editorial accompanying the study said.

“Given the clear association between Black race and high incidence of heart failure as compared to white patients, as well as associations with worse heart failure outcomes, attention to food environment in this high-risk population is of the utmost importance,” wrote editorialists Dr. Elissa Driggan and Dr. Ersilia DeFilippis, both of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

“It has already been demonstrated that compared to predominantly white neighborhoods, there are significantly fewer supermarkets in predominantly Black neighborhoods, which are likely to be inversely associated with ready-to-eat food environments,” added the editorialists.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more on fast food and health.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Feb. 27, 2023

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