A systematic review of fast food access studies


S Fleischhacker, NIH-UNC Interdisciplinary Obesity Post-Doc Fellow, UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, 1700 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, CB # 7426, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7426, USA. E-mail: sfly@email.unc.edu


The frequent consumption of energy-dense fast food is associated with increased body mass index. This systematic review aims to examine the methodology and current evidence on fast food access and its associations with outcomes. Six databases were searched using terms relating to fast food. Only peer-reviewed studies published in English during a 10-year period, with data collection and analysis regarding fast food access were included. Forty articles met the aforementioned criteria. Nearly half of the studies (n = 16) used their own set of features to define fast food. Studies predominantly examined the relationship between fast food access and socioeconomic factors (n = 21) and 76% indicated fast food restaurants were more prevalent in low-income areas compared with middle- to higher-income areas. Ten of 12 studies found fast food restaurants were more prevalent in areas with higher concentrations of ethnic minority groups in comparison with Caucasians. Six adult studies found higher body mass index was associated with living in areas with increased exposure to fast food; four studies, however, did not find associations. Further work is needed to understand if and how fast food access impacts dietary intake and health outcomes; and if fast food access has disparate socioeconomic, race/ethnicity and age associations.