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Living near bars and fast-food restaurants could be bad for your heart, study finds

Living near pubs, bars, and fast-food joints might heighten the risk of heart failure, claims new research. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Living near pubs, bars, and fast-food joints might heighten the risk of heart failure, claims new research released in Circulation: Heart Failure, a publication of the American Heart Association.

Dr. Lu Qi, a professor in Tulane University's epidemiology department and the senior author of the study, highlighted that such locales typically offer unhealthy food and drink options, which have been linked to cardiovascular diseases.


Heart failure, a condition where the heart fails to pump sufficient blood to meet the body's needs, was the focus of this study, which aimed to explore its relationship with the food environment, an area often overlooked in nutrition research.

Lu Qi, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the epidemiology department, Tulane University, New Orleans. (CREDIT: Tulane University)

"Previous research mostly focused on food quality, neglecting the impact of the food environment," Qi stated. "Our study underscores the necessity of considering the food environment in nutrition research."


The investigation utilized data from the UK Biobank, housing health information of over 500,000 adults in the UK. The study assessed participants' exposure to three types of food environments—pubs/bars, restaurants/cafeterias, and fast-food outlets—based on proximity (within 1 kilometer) and density.

Over a 12-year period, nearly 13,000 cases of heart failure were documented through national electronic health datasets. The analysis revealed a correlation between closer proximity and higher density of ready-to-eat food outlets with an elevated risk of heart failure.


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Key findings included:

  • Individuals residing within a kilometer of 11 or more ready-to-eat outlets faced a 16% higher risk of heart failure compared to those without such establishments nearby.

  • Those in areas densely populated with pubs/bars experienced a 14% increased risk, while those in fast-food-dense regions had a 12% higher risk.

  • Living within 500 meters of pubs/bars corresponded to a 13% higher risk, and proximity to fast-food outlets within the same distance led to a 10% higher risk compared to those living farther away.


Notably, the risk was more pronounced among participants lacking a college degree and urban dwellers without access to formal physical activity facilities.

Associations of the ready-to-eat food environments with risk of heart failure, allowing for non-linear effects. (CREDIT: Circulation: Heart Failure)

Qi noted the alignment of their findings with previous studies linking ready-to-eat food environments to conditions like Type 2 diabetes and obesity, which are also associated with heart failure risk.


The authors suggested that enhancing access to healthier food environments and fitness facilities in urban areas, coupled with efforts to elevate educational attainment, could mitigate the heightened heart failure risk associated with fast-food options.

Chips and Queso. (CREDIT: AHA)

An accompanying editorial emphasized the necessity of conducting more detailed analyses in racially and ethnically diverse communities, particularly those with a higher incidence of heart failure, such as Black populations.


The American Heart Association is actively working to improve access to healthy food, particularly for patients with chronic conditions. Their Health Care by Food TM initiative aims to demonstrate the clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of food-based interventions, advocating for their coverage by public and private health insurance.

Fried chicken and waffles. (CREDIT: Kevin is cooking)

While the study utilized a substantial sample size, it may not fully represent the general population due to its predominantly white, older, and UK-based participants. Limitations include potential exposure misclassification and the inability to establish causality due to the observational nature of the research.


The study underscores the imperative of enhancing food environments to curb heart failure risk, with further investigations warranted to bolster the robustness and relevance of these findings.

For more science and technology stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


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