The prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents has reached epidemic proportions: 11.5 percent among children age 2-5 years, 17.7 percent among children age 6-11 years and 17.3 percent among children age 12-19 years. Moreover, research has shown that obesity is more prevalent in non-Hispanic black persons and Mexican Americans than Whites. This study examines the relationship between fast-food restaurant availability and weight outcomes. The researchers linked restaurant outlet data to 2000 Census Bureau data covering a population of more than 280 million people.
The results showed that higher income neighborhoods had fewer available full-service and fast-food restaurants compared to lower-income areas. Near low- and middle-income neighborhoods were found to have the highest number of available restaurants with 1.24 and 1.22 times the number of full-service restaurants and 1.34 and 1.28 times the number of fast-food restaurants compared to high-income areas. By race and ethnicity, predominantly African-American neighborhoods were found to have 58.2 percent and 59.3 percent, respectively, of the number of available full-service and fast-food restaurants found in predominantly White areas. Similarly, predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods had 60.9 percent and 55. 8 percent the number of full-service and fast-food restaurants available to non-Hispanic areas. In 2006, fast-food restaurants made up 30 percent of all eateries nationwide, up from 17 percent in 1997. The researchers conclude that the extent to which the availability of full-service and fast-food diners differ by income and race warrants further investigation.