In modern America, it’s safe to say that fast food is everywhere. In fact, there’s a good chance that a fast food establishment is located very close to your home. Given the close proximity of such offerings, it’s probably not too surprising to learn that living near these restaurants has a negative effect on children’s weight.
Lots of Kids, Lots of Food
Such was the conclusion of a study published in the journal Obesity, which represented the largest ever study on urban obesity published in the United States. The authors directed their focus towards the New York City public school system, which educates over 1 million children each year. When reviewing all this data, the research team determined that the closer a student lived to a fast food restaurant, the likelier they were to be obese.
The children analyzed by the study ranged in age from five to eighteen. For those who resided within a half-block of a fast food establishment, the researchers found that one in five met the criteria for obesity. Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of these children were overweight. The story was very similar for school children who lived within the same distance from corner stores or bodegas – 40 percent were overweight, and 21 percent qualified as obsess.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Conversely, the further away a student lived from such establishments, the less likely they were to be obese or overweight. Depending on the type of outlet in question, the authors noted that obesity rates dropped 1 to 4 percent for every half- or full block.
Senior investigator Brian Elbel, a faculty member at the Department of Population Health at New York University School of Medicine, contends that the study shows the risks of presenting children with too many junk-food temptations. “Our study indicates that living very close to food outlets with a lot of unhealthy, junk food choices is likely not good for reducing the risk of children being overweight and/or obese. Just having food outlets a block farther away — and potentially less convenient or accessible — can significantly lessen children’s chances of being obese or overweight.”