The Closer You Are, the Fatter You'll Get
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.
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.