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Fast food takeaways grow more rapidly in poorest areas

The number of takeaway food outlets has risen substantially over the past two decades, with a large increase seen in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage, according to a study carried out across Norfolk by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

In a study published today, researchers from the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), at the University of Cambridge, analysed the change in density of takeaway food outlets across Norfolk between 1990 and 2008 and how this related to levels of neighbourhood socioeconomic deprivation.

Takeaway food outlets, such as fish and chip shops, kebab shops, and Indian and Chinese takeaways, primarily offer ready-to-eat, energy-dense foods that are associated with higher total energy and fat intakes. Frequent consumption of takeaway food has been associated with excess weight gain over time.Previous studies have shown that people of low socioeconomic status and living in deprived areas are more likely to be overweight and consume unhealthy diets than other sectors of the population.

By collecting data on number and location of takeaways, mapped to areas of Norfolk, the researchers showed that takeaway numbers rose by 45% in the 18 year period. The highest absolute increase in density of outlets was in areas of highest deprivation, which saw an increase from 4.6 outlets to 6.5 outlets per 10,000 residents (a 43% increase). This is in contrast to areas of least deprivation, which saw an increase from 1.6 to 2.1 per 10,000 residents over the time period (a 30% increase).

PhD student Eva Maguire, lead author of the study from CEDAR, said: “The link we’ve seen between the number of takeaway food outlets and area deprivation is consistent with other reports, but this is the first time the changes over time have been studied in the UK. There were differences in the densities of takeaway outlets as far back as we looked, but these differences also became more extreme.”

Dr Pablo Monsivais, also from CEDAR, added: “The growing concentration of takeaway outlets in poorer areas might be reinforcing inequalities in diet and obesity, with unhealthy neighbourhoods making it more difficult to make healthy food choices. Our findings suggest that it might be time for local authorities to think hard about restrictions on the number and location of outlets in a given area, particularly deprived areas.”

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