Adolescent Obesity Linked to Fast Food Near Schools

Articles
January 09, 2009

Adolescent Obesity Linked to Fast Food Near Schools

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) childhood obesity's tripled nationwide in the last thirty years. And, while many public and private school systems across the nation are working to implement bans on junk food and proper nutrition programs, it isn't just the food at school that is affecting the epidemic. A recent study now shows that 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. The study conducted by Drs. Brennan Davis of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California and Christopher Carpenter of the University of California at Irvine also found that 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. Several studies have shown that children are exposed to poor nutrition and fast food advertising as the travel to and from school, but this unique study takes a look at the effects. The studied reported found that the students who attended schools located within a km of a fast-food outlet 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. Those going to fast food restaurants near the school were also less likely to report eating any vegetables, fruit, or drinking any juice the day before; and were more likely to have had a cold drink on the previous day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) childhood obesity's tripled nationwide in the last thirty years. And, while many public and private school systems across the nation are working to implement bans on junk food and proper nutrition programs, it isn't just the food at school that is affecting the epidemic.

A recent study now shows that 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. The study conducted by Drs. Brennan Davis of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California and Christopher Carpenter of the University of California at Irvine also found that 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.

Several studies have shown that children are exposed to poor nutrition and fast food advertising as the travel to and from school, but this unique study takes a look at the effects. The studied reported found that the students who attended schools located within a km of a fast-food outlet 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. Those going to fast food restaurants near the school were also less likely to report eating any vegetables, fruit, or drinking any juice the day before; and were more likely to have had a cold drink on the previous day.

In a related recent study that appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers at Michigan State University and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found that only three percent of all children's meals found at a number of fast food restaurants meet federal guidelines based on the National School Lunch Program. The less healthy meals failed to meet nutritional guidelines on several counts. More than 65 percent contained too much fat, 75 percent too little calcium, 82 percent not enough iron, and 85 percent too little vitamin A.

While the studies provide strong evidence that fast food restaurants that are located in close proximity to schools could be a contributor to overweight children, particularly with most menu items failing to meet nutritional guidelines, the news is not all bad. It was also found that menu items such as deli sandwiches, fruit, juice and milk contained about a third less fat, one-sixth less added sugar, and three times as much vitamin A and calcium as the less healthy meals in the study. The point being, it is possible for fast food restaurants to educate themselves on adolescent nutritional needs, work to improve their menus to meet those needs, and still capitalize on locations near schools.