Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Neighborhood fast food restaurants and fast food consumption: A national study

Andrea S Richardson1, Janne Boone-Heinonen2, Barry M Popkin1 and Penny Gordon-Larsen1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Carolina Population Center, 123 West Franklin St. Campus Box 8120, Chapel Hill, NC USA

2 Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University; 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Mail Code CB 669, Portland, OR 97239-3098, USA

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:543  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-543

Published: 8 July 2011



Recent studies suggest that neighborhood fast food restaurant availability is related to greater obesity, yet few studies have investigated whether neighborhood fast food restaurant availability promotes fast food consumption. Our aim was to estimate the effect of neighborhood fast food availability on frequency of fast food consumption in a national sample of young adults, a population at high risk for obesity.


We used national data from U.S. young adults enrolled in wave III (2001-02; ages 18-28) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (n = 13,150). Urbanicity-stratified multivariate negative binomial regression models were used to examine cross-sectional associations between neighborhood fast food availability and individual-level self-reported fast food consumption frequency, controlling for individual and neighborhood characteristics.


In adjusted analysis, fast food availability was not associated with weekly frequency of fast food consumption in non-urban or low- or high-density urban areas.


Policies aiming to reduce neighborhood availability as a means to reduce fast food consumption among young adults may be unsuccessful. Consideration of fast food outlets near school or workplace locations, factors specific to more or less urban settings, and the role of individual lifestyle attitudes and preferences are needed in future research.

Epidemiology; United States; *Diet; Geographic Information Systems; Environment; Environment Design; Fast Foods; Restaurants; Young Adult; MeSH