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Fast food near schools means fatter kids

Adolescents who go to school within a half-mile of a fast-food restaurant are more likely to be overweight or obese than kids whose schools are further away, new research suggests.

The young people in the study also ate fewer servings of fruits and vegetables and drank more soda if there was at least one fast food restaurant within a half-mile radius of their school according to Drs. Brennan Davis of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California and Christopher Carpenter of the University of California at Irvine.

Davis and Carpenter used detailed 2002-2005 data on more than 500,000 middle- and high-school students from the California Healthy Kids Survey to examine whether proximity to fast food restaurants was related to eating habits or body weight.

Roughly 28% of the study participants were overweight and 12% were obese. Over half (55%) attended schools within a half mile of a fast-food restaurant.

According to the researchers, students who attended schools located near a fast-food establishment were heavier than were other students of similar age, ethnicity and activity level. The effect was the same whether there was one or more fast food restaurants close by.

Kids going to school near fast food restaurants also were less likely to report eating any vegetables, any fruit, or drinking any juice the day before; they were more likely to say they drank soda on the previous day.

'Overall, our patterns are consistent with the idea that fast food near schools affects students' eating habits, overweight, and obesity,' Davis and Carpenter conclude in a report in the American Journal of Public Health.

The researchers say policies for helping adolescents eat more healthy food could range from offering them healthier alternatives to the 'more drastic' approach of restricting the number of fast food restaurants allowed within walking distance of schools. 'Regardless of which option policymakers choose, the need for intervention is clear. The sheer magnitude of the problem of childhood obesity demands attention.'

Page created on January 5th, 2009

Page updated on December 1st, 2009