Schools Near Fast-Food Restaurants Increase Obesity and Diabetes Risk
Sun, January 18, 2009
If a school is just down the block from a fast-food restaurant, students are more likely to be overweight or obese, researchers reported.
Those whose schools were less than a half-mile from a fast-food restaurant were at an increased risk for overweight and obesity, Brennan Davis, Ph.D., of Azusa Pacific University reported.
“Students at schools near fast-food restaurants had higher rates of obesity after controlling for a lot of different variables than students whose schools were not near fast-food restaurants,” Dr. Davis said. Even though it is perceived that the proximity of fast-food restaurants to schools affects children’s health, research has not yielded consensus on the issue, the researchers said.
So they analyzed several databases, including the California Healthy Kids Survey, and connected them with other databases, including a set of restaurants from Microsoft Streets and Trips.
They found that the average body mass index for students in the sample was 21.7 kg/m2. About 27.7% of the sample was overweight and 12% was obese.
In addition to finding that students who attended schools near fast food-restaurants tend to be heavier, the researchers found that attending such a school was associated with a 0.10-unit increase in BMI compared with kids whose schools were not near a fast-food restaurant.
In a multivariate analysis, Dr. Davis noted that the findings didn’t apply solely to schools in urban areas. “We wanted to make sure that we weren’t just finding out that schools in urban areas—which would be more likely to have nearby fast-food restaurants in general—had [higher rates of obesity],” he said. “We were able to show across all different location types that this effect of fast-food proximity still holds.”
Associations between BMI and being near a fast-food restaurant were larger, however, for black students and students at urban schools, Dr. Davis said.
“When we zero in on some of these variables, we find that some relationships are stronger than others,” Dr. Davis said. “But we are still controlling for all of these things in our baseline model to show the connection between placement and obesity and consumption.”
The researchers also found that kids at these schools consumed fewer servings of vegetables, fruits, and juice than did students at schools further from fast-food chains.
They also had significantly higher soda consumption, the researchers said.
Dr. Davis said a number of related policy interventions could help reduce adolescent obesity. He suggested increased education regarding healthy eating habits, limiting student access during lunchtime, and in extreme situations, zoning limitations.
American Journal of Public Health; Davis B, Carpenter C “Proximity of fast-food restaurants to schools and adolescent obesity” Am J Public Health 2009; 99(3).