Diabetes and obesity rates in inner cities can be linked to the number of fast-food outlets near people's homes, a study has found.
Scientists based their conclusion on a study of 10,000 people in the UK. They found there were twice as many fast-food outlets within 500 metres of non-white and socially deprived neighbourhoods.
Lead researcher Professor Kamlesh Khunti, from the University of Leicester, said: "The results are quite alarming and have major implications for public health interventions to limit the number of fast-food outlets in more deprived areas."
Writing in the journal Public Health Nutrition, the researchers said that every additional two outlets per neighbourhood led to the expectation of one additional case of diabetes. This was assuming a causal relationship between the two.
Prof Khunti said: "In a multi-ethnic region of the UK, individuals had on average two fast-food outlets within 500 metres of their home.
"This number differed substantially by key demographics, including ethnicity; people of non-white ethnicity had more than twice the number of fast-food outlets in their neighbourhood compared with white Europeans. We found that the number of fast-food outlets in a person's neighbourhood was associated with an increased risk of screen-detected type 2 diabetes and obesity.
"We found a much higher number of fast-food outlets in more deprived areas where a higher number of black and minority ethnic populations resided. This in turn was associated with higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes."
Co-author Dr Patrice Carter, also from the Leicester team, said: "The observed association between the number of fast-food outlets with obesity and type 2 diabetes does not come as a surprise; fast-food is high in total fat, trans-fatty acids and sodium, portion sizes have increased two to fivefold over the last 50 years and a single fast-food meal provides approximately 1,400 calories. Furthermore, fast-food outlets often provide sugar-rich drinks."
The research was published ahead of World Diabetes Day on Friday.