The researchers at NYU School of Medicine have assessed the city blocks to check how proximity to fast food sellers can impact the risk of obesity.
For over 1 million children attending public schools in NYC, the eating choice was depending upon the food sources available in their vicinity. The journal “Obesity” has reported this study online on October 29.
Fast food outlets and obesity
In this study, the team has assessed the data of children aged 5 – 18. That are living a half-block away from a fast or convenience food seller. The results have shown that among these children, 38% were overweight and 20% obese.
Whereas, among the children who were living within a half-block of corner stores, 21% were obese and 40% overweight. The researchers found that for every half or full block farther away from the unhealthy food sources, there was a 1% to more than 4% drop in the figures.
At the same time, the drop in this obesity or overweight percent was also dependent upon the type of food outlet. These findings were based on the analysis of public-school records from kindergarten to high school. That comprised of the periodic measurements of children’s weight and height.
The research team has used mapping software for comparing the information about how far every child lived from the sellers of both healthy and junk foods at fast food outlets, sit-down restaurants, corner stores, and grocery stores.
The findings have shown that the comparisons were “highly neighborhood specific.” Brian Elbel, Ph.D., is the senior investigator of the study.
He says that living very close to junk and unhealthy food isn’t good to reduce the risk of obesity. While just having the fast-food sellers a block farther away (potentially less accessible) can reduce the risk of overweight or obesity in children.
Easy and quick access to junk food can place the kids at risk
According to Elbel, up till now, this study is the largest analysis of urban childhood obesity in the U.S. Even a few percents drop in the obesity rates indicates the saving of thousands of children from obesity and health problems related to it. That may include an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and early death.
Experts estimate that one in every five of the school-age children in the U.S. has an excess of body weight. And are now obese or overweight. This is triple the rates since the 1970s.
According to the CDC, children, and teens of the same age and sex, having a BMI at or above 95 percentiles are obese. While those with BMI at or above 85 percentile and below the 95 percentile are overweight.
Elbel is an associate professor at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and NYU School of Medicine. He says that these findings can support policies that limit the corner store and fast food outlets to keep them at a minimum distance away from housing areas with persistently high rates of obesity.
Elbel has also noted that there was no increase in the obesity risk based on the distance from home to grocery stores. Additionally, he says that neighborhood “food deserts,” where fresh produce is in limited supply, plays a little role in childhood obesity rates in urban areas.
Elbel says that what appears to put kids at the risk of obesity is the easy and quick access to junk food.