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The Closer You Are, the Fatter You'll Get

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Photo by vin dog via Flickr

Photo by vin dog via Flickr
How close are you to obesity? If you're a teenager, the answer is in the geography:

Teens who attend classes within one-tenth of a mile of a fast-food outlet are more likely to be obese than peers whose campuses are located farther from the lure of quarter-pound burgers, fries and shakes.

So go "the findings of a recent study by researchers from UC Berkeley and Columbia University seeking a link between obesity and the easy availability of fast food," according to the LA Times. The study focused on California 9th graders over an 8 year period, and looked at the proximity of their schools and major fast food chains. Kids who could walk from campus to a fast food joint easily (530 feet or less), were found to have "a 5.2% increase in the incidence of student obesity compared with the average for California youths." If the Mickey Dees and Taco Bells were farther away, the kids were more fit.

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Another conclusion from the study: "The researchers said cities concerned about battling teen obesity should consider banning fast-food restaurants near schools."

The presence and availability of unhealthy food in California's schools and communities has been the subject of much scrutiny in recent years:

Students can no longer purchase soda or junk food in Golden State schools. Some districts won't allow bake sales. California has banned artery-cloggingtrans fats, and Los Angeles has a one-year moratorium on new fast-food outlets in a 32-square-mile area of South L.A.

But will putting up the proverbial fence, or locking the doors have profound, and realistic, results? While the study shows that if you put a fast food joint near a high school, the kids will eat there--it's cheap, fast, familiar, and satisfying--not having one there doesn't necessarily mean kids, and their families, will be healthier.