From the Journals

‘Fast food swamps’ linked to type 1 diabetes



Areas with a high density of fast food outlets are associated with a greater prevalence of type 1 diabetes but not type 2 diabetes, according to new research.

These findings come from an analysis of emergency claims data for 5 million adults and 1.6 million children in New York who visited an emergency department at least once during 2009-2013. Researchers also looked at sociodemographic data for the area from community surveys and used local authorities’ inspection data to characterize local restaurant and retail food environments.

Fast food neon sign on black background. Annbozhko/iStock/Getty Images
The unadjusted analysis suggested a higher prevalence of all types of diabetes in so-called “fast food swamps” – areas with a high prevalence of fast food restaurants.

But when the analysis was adjusted to account for a range of factors, including age, sex, ethnicity, household income, and employment rates, the association between fast food swamps and diabetes was significant for pediatric type 1 diabetes only.

“Given the rising prevalence of type 1 diabetes, there has been increasing belief that certain environmental influences are contributing sharply to these increases,” wrote David C. Lee, MD, New York University Langone Health, and his coauthors. “There is some emerging literature which suggests that pregnant women in adverse food environments may have a higher likelihood of gestational diabetes, which some believe may affect health outcomes in their offspring.”

The study also failed to find an influence of retail food swamps – areas with more bodegas or small convenience stores within a 1-mile radius – on the prevalence of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, in either adults or children. When researchers extended this to a 2-mile radius, they did find a significantly higher prevalence of pediatric type 1 diabetes associated with retail food swamps but a significantly lower prevalence of adult type 1 diabetes.

“This result may suggest that the retail food environment does not have a strong association with local diabetes prevalence or may be due to how we measured the retail food environment,” they wrote.

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