Fast Food Availability Linked with Increased Heart Attacks

A higher concentration of fast food restaurants was associated with an increase in heart attacks in surrounding communities, according to new research.

“Previous studies have shown that the poor nutritional value, high salt and saturated fat in fast food is connected to heart disease, yet the role of greater access to these restaurants has been less clear,” lead study author Tarunpreet Saluja, of the University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia, explained a press release.

Presented at the 67th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ, in conjunction with the European Society of Cardiology), the retrospective cohort study included 3,070 patients admitted for myocardial infarction (MI) events between 1996 and 2013 in the Hunter region of Australia. The authors used weighted linear regression to analyze the relationship between fast food restaurant density in a specified area and the incidence of MI.

According to their results, there was a positive correlation between rates of MI fast food outlet density, and the correlation remained consistent across single and multivariate predictive models after adjustment for factors such as age, obesity, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, smoking status, and diabetes (P<0.001). They reported that an increase of just one fast food outlet per 100,000 people in a particular area corresponded with four additional cases of MI per year (4.12; 95% CI, 3.88-4.35).

“It will be crucial to explore whether this association is independent of the social determinants of disease, as we know that fast food outlets are often more common in disadvantaged areas,” Prof. Tom Marwick, chairman of the Scientific Program Committee, said of the study results. “Nonetheless, the findings are a reminder that the fundamental drivers of cardiovascular disease burden may be altered by changes in public policy. The fact that the appropriate policy steps have not been taken, despite the cost of cardiovascular disease, remains as much a mystery in Australia as elsewhere in the world.”