Background The food environment has been hypothesized to influence cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and coronary heart disease. This study determines the relation between fast-food outlet density (FFD) and the individual risk for cardiovascular disease, among a nationwide Dutch sample. Methods After linkage of three national registers, a cohort of 2,472,004 adults (≥35 years), free from cardiovascular disease at January 1st 2009 and living at the same address for ≥15 years was constructed. Participants were followed for one year to determine incidence of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure. Street network-based buffers of 500 m, 1000 m and 3000 m around residential addresses were calculated, while FFD was determined using a retail outlet database. Logistic regression analyses were conducted. Models were stratified by degree of urbanization and adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, marital status, comorbidity, neighbourhood-level income and population density. Results In urban areas, fully adjusted models indicated that the incidence of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease was significantly higher within 500 m buffers with one or more fast-food outlets as compared with areas with no fast-food outlets. An elevated FFD within 1000 m was associated with an significantly increased incidence of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. Evidence was less pronounced for 3000 m buffers, or for stroke and heart-failure incidence. Conclusions Elevated FFD in the urban residential environment (≤1000 m) was related to an increased incidence of cardiovascular heart disease and coronary heart disease. To better understand how FFD is associated with cardiovascular disease, future studies should account for a wider range of lifestyle and environmental confounders than was achieved in this study.
Keywords: Cardiovascular diseases; environmental exposure; fast food; incidence; population register.