Objective: Eating at "fast food" restaurants has increased and is linked to obesity. This study examined whether living or working near "fast food" restaurants is associated with body weight.
Methods: A telephone survey of 1033 Minnesota residents assessed body height and weight, frequency of eating at restaurants, and work and home addresses. Proximity of home and work to restaurants was assessed by Global Index System (GIS) methodology.
Results: Eating at "fast food" restaurants was positively associated with having children, a high fat diet and Body Mass Index (BMI). It was negatively associated with vegetable consumption and physical activity. Proximity of "fast food" restaurants to home or work was not associated with eating at "fast food" restaurants or with BMI. Proximity of "non-fast food" restaurants was not associated with BMI, but was associated with frequency of eating at those restaurants.
Conclusion: Failure to find relationships between proximity to "fast food" restaurants and obesity may be due to methodological weaknesses, e.g. the operational definition of "fast food" or "proximity", or homogeneity of restaurant proximity. Alternatively, the proliferation of "fast food" restaurants may not be a strong unique cause of obesity.