Restrictions on takeaways needed to tackle obesity

People who live or work near to a greater number of takeaway outlets are more likely to eat more takeaway food and be overweight. That much we know.

But researchers at the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) at the University of Cambridge have also discovered that the people “most exposed and least educated” are over three times more likely to be obese than the ones who are “least exposed and most educated”.

Using data from almost 6,000 adults the researchers discovered that the availability of takeaways seemed to be amplifying existing social inequalities.

Individuals with greatest exposure to takeaway outlets consumed around a third more unhealthy takeaway food per day if they were the poorest educated (47g per day) than if they were highest educated (36g per day). Over a year, this is the equivalent of over 4kg of extra unhealthy food. The least educated also had the greatest risk of obesity where the exposure to takeaway outlets was highest.

“Neighbourhoods are clearly important in shaping what all of us eat, no matter how educated we are,” explained Thomas Burgoine from CEDAR, part of the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge. “But this effect appears to be much greater for those with lower levels of education.”

The findings suggest that efforts to improve diets and health by regulating the number of takeaway outlets on the high street might be “particularly effective” for those of lower socioeconomic status and therefore help to reduce inequalities in diet and obesity.

The amount spent on takeaway foods over the past decade has risen by 29% in the UK; £28 billion worth of takeaway foods are now purchased annually.

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