Most Americans love to grab readily available unhealthy meals and this eating habit is probably what is causing the widespread obesity in the country. A study has found that junk food and frozen dinners are the main culprits of higher body mass index (BMI).

Obesity and overweight are associated with several chronic illnesses, like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. An estimated 40 percent of people, or more than 93 million individuals, in the United States are considered obese.

Experts and studies have already suggested the importance of eating healthy to stay fit, but many Americans are addicted to junk foods and readily available meals. The study published in the medical journal PLoS ONE on Wednesday found that Americans are caught in the trap of the “quick-cheap-easy meal."

“Unfortunately, customers’ preferences are the main problem. The trap of the quick-cheap-easy meal has become a norm among Americans,” Adriana Dornelles, who is the author of the study and an economics researcher at Arizona State University, Tempe, said.

The research team focussed on the association between BMI and food environments near residential neighborhoods, commuting corridors and work neighborhoods. They were able to find significant relationships between the two.

The research team found that people who have easy access to grocery stores, supermarkets, and fast food restaurants are at higher risk of becoming obese or overweight.

For the study, the research team observed a total of 710 adults who were staying in and around New Orleans. The team tried to find out if the people who have easy access to junk foods and readily available meals had higher BMI.

They found the participants with fancier dining establishments, fast food restaurants, smaller grocery stores and supermarkets near their workplace or home and along their daily commuting routes were at higher risk of obesity and weight increase.

They also found that those who stayed near many supermarkets and smaller grocery stores had higher average BMIs compared with those who had fewer grocery stores near their home or workplace.

The researchers concluded the study by stating that distribution of restaurants and food retailers can influence the eating habits of an individual, which can eventually lead to obesity and weight increase.

However, the researchers were unable to find a direct link between eating habits and higher BMI. They did not look into the details on the participants' eating habits.

Distribution of restaurants and food retailers can impact an individual’s eating habit. Pixabay/FreeToUseSounds