Fast food outlets on a Hastings strip are serving up more than convenience - they're creating "the perfect storm" for obesity.
A 1.2km section of Heretaunga St West from Stortford Rd roundabout to Carl's Jr is packed with 19 fast food outlets.
Plentiful options include four fish and chip shops, two Chinese takeaways, three bakeries and a majority of the major food chains from McDonald's to Subway, Domino's and KFC.
"You would not find a nutritionist who would argue these aren't the worst foods for us to be eating," leading New Zealand nutritionist Ben Warren said.
"If you start eating high-fat foods with high-sugar foods it's a metabolic bomb, the perfect storm for obesity, type 2 diabetes and a host of other health problems."
Kiwis in general had fairly bad eating habits and a much loved national dish full of damaged fats, zero antioxidants and few vitamins.
"What's unique to New Zealand is the Friday night fish and chip culture - it used to be a once-a-week thing, but now that there's 19 food outlets in a 1.2km strip, it's not only happening once a week."
Eating four big chips was the calorie equivalent of a slice of bread - an entire serving could easily equate to more than half the recommended daily intake in one meal.
People who rarely eat unhealthy foods may feel short-term side effects such as lethargy, diarrhoea or constipation. But those who constantly reach for convenient takeaways become somewhat immune to their effects.
Mr Warren likened it to smoking - you might cough after one cigarette but once the body becomes accustomed, a pack a day is no trouble.
That's not to say a regular diet of burgers and chips isn't taking a toll internally. It contributes to high blood pressure, size and cholesterol, while long term it can cause heart attacks and strokes.
"We are intrinsically wired to hunt and destroy sugar for energy, fat for hormones and sodium for electrolytes - modern food is directly playing on our instincts.
"It's very hard to be healthy in today's world - it's much easier not to go to the gym, it's much easier not to cook, it's expensive to eat good food."
Researchers from the universities of Auckland, Otago and Oxford this week released a study that found 2400 lives a year could be saved with a 20 per cent tax on our saltiest, fattiest foods and by cutting the price of fruit and vegetables with a 20 per cent subsidy.
The huge selection of fast food in Hastings West was literally building on an already overweight local population. Hawke's Bay District Health Board's inEquality report released last year shed some light on the bulging statistics.
One in three adults in Hawke's Bay is obese - one in two Maori and two in three Pasifika - placing the region above the national average.
"Maintaining a healthy weight is a balancing act between the energy we consume through our food and the energy we use through daily activities," said director of population health and health equity champion Dr Caroline McElnay.
"There are no simple solutions to obesity but we must work together across the whole community to find solutions, otherwise we will see the gains made in other health areas lost."
It's part of a larger issue - New Zealand's expanding waistlines are ranked fourth worst in the OECD, behind the United States, Mexico and Hungary.
A clustered placement of takeaway joints was no coincidence, according to research fellow at Auckland's Liggins Institute, Dr Caroline Gunn, who taught microbiology, food safety and nutrition at EIT for 18 years.
"The evidence from research is that these outlets tend to focus on lower socio-economic areas. Those people often have access to less reasonable supermarkets. They position themselves closest to the areas where people frequent them because of ease of access - that's really unfortunate," she said.
"Obviously there is a demand so these places situate themselves in the areas that people have got to pass to get to other food. They advertise these preset specials, people need to get out of it but the temptation and the cost is too attractive."
Adults and children living in the most deprived areas are respectively 1.5 and 3 times more likely to fall into the obese category than those situated in wealthier areas.
This situation was breeding a generation of unhealthy eaters at risk of early-onset diabetes and other health issues, said Havelock North dietitian Diane Stride.
"I think if we look generations back they didn't have this because they made their own ingredients using whole foods.
"We are now raising a generation where people aren't doing that, we are buying processed foods, losing cooking skills and society is making it easy to be unhealthy.
"Even if you drive past the first place, there are all these visual cues in a very short space, screaming at you to stop."
What do you think?
Comment below, email email@example.com or write letters to the editor to PO BOX180, Hastings, 4122.