Living near restaurants, convenience stores, supermarkets and even fast food outlets actually lowers your risk for obesity, according to a new study.
Surprisingly, people who live more than a half mile away from any food outlets are the ones who tend to be fatter.
"Having access to a range of food options in your neighbourhood affects both your energy input and output," says Cathleen Zick, study co-author and professor of family and consumer studies, University of Utah (U-U).
"A healthy grocery option may influence the food you choose to buy, while having multiple food destinations within walking distance might encourage you to walk, rather than drive, to your next meal."
In a 2008 study, Zick and colleagues found that residents were at less risk of being obese or overweight if they lived in accessible neighbourhoods-those that were more densely populated, pedestrian friendly and had a range of destinations for pedestrians.
Folding food environment into the mix, their current study demonstrates how important proximity to healthy food options can be to your waist line.
The study, compared the body mass index of nearly 5,00,000 Salt Lake County residents with food-related business addresses within their neighbourhoods.
Researchers found that residents were 10 percent less likely to be obese if they lived in a neighbourhood with a diversity of food options-healthy groceries, full-service restaurants, convenience stores and fast-food restaurants - compared with residents with no food options in their neighbourhoods, says an U-U release.
The study also found that neighbourhood income level plays a role in obesity. They found residents in low-income neighbourhoods were 26 per cent less likely to be obese if there was one or more healthy grocery options within walking distance, compared with low-income residents without neighbourhood retail food outlets.