The fast food industry isn’t getting any breaks these days. Previous studies have shown that living in close proximity to fast food restaurants leads to an increased risk of obesity and heart disease. Now, according to a study at the University of Michigan, living in a neighbourhood with lots of fast food joints increases your risk of having a stroke.
Dr. Lewis Morgenstern and a research team studied health and census data from Nueces County, Texas, to come up with the statistics for their study. They counted the number of fast food or convenience restaurants in different neighbourhoods, then correlated that with the number of ischemic strokes suffered there. Ischemic strokes – where a clot shuts off blood flow to a portion of the brain – is the most common kind of stroke.
They found a strict relationship between the two figures. Every additional fast food place in the neighbourhood gave its residents a one-percent jump in their risk of having a stroke. Although the numbers were unequivocal, Dr. Morgenstern stressed that more work needs to be done to fill in the gaps of knowledge left by the study. His work does not show whether mere proximity to the restaurants or other local factors increased people’s risk, or if the strokes occurred from frequenting such places. Although the connection might seem obvious to anyone familiar with how high-fat, high-calorie diets clog arteries, the science has not yet been completed.
Nevertheless, Dr. Morgenstern says that we should look at a neighbourhood before we decide to move there. The precise reasons why will be revealed by future research, but the basic premise is clear – the more quick and cheap places to eat around you, the greater likelihood you have of getting fat, or of developing a stroke or heart disease.