Fast- Food Restaurants may Not Contribute to Childhood Obesity

by Karishma Abhishek on Jan 15 2021 6:13 PM

Fast- Food Restaurants may Not Contribute to Childhood Obesity
Availability of fast food restaurants on the route between children's houses and their schools does not affect children's weight as per a paper in Q Open.
Obesity is the top concern in the United States where obesity rates are 18.4% for those ages 6-11 and 20.6% for those ages 12-19. Steps are being taken to reduce the childhood obesity as it stands as a risk-factor for negative physical and mental health outcomes.

Rising concerns are emerging by many public health figures about the role of fast-food restaurants on food consumption and resulting obesity in children. Local governments in the United States may influence children's food options through the zoning process. With this regards, several fast-food restaurants near schools are considered to be banned in cities, including Austin, Texas, and New York.

Childhood Obesity and Availability of Fast - Food Restaurants

The study team investigated the effect of fast-food restaurants availability on childhood weight outcomes by gender, age, race, ethnicity and location using Arkansas student Body Mass Index. Data collected from 2004 to 2010 were matched to home and school address through annual school registration records.

Using a radius of one-half mile to define exposure near home and school, the mean total exposure level is 3.34 restaurants. The majority of children in the sample had zero exposure within 0.5 miles of home (69.6%). In contrast, 45.2% of children have at least one fast-food restaurant located within 0.5 miles of their school.

Changes in fast-food exposure as students changed schools – from elementary school to junior high school over time were also taken into account. It was observed that changes in exposure have no effect on BMI z- score.

The team deduced no meaningful association between fast-food exposure along the route to school and BMI. There was also no correlation seen in income or between urban and rural children.

This highlights that establishment of commercial food environment was not the primary driver of excess childhood weight gain among children.

"Policies that place restrictions on actions of individuals and businesses are costly. We see this with the response to Covid-19. Even when imposed with the most well-intentioned of objectives, people resist attempts to constrain their will. If governments are going to pursue a strategy that requires the investment of time and monetary resources to get a policy passed and enforced, it must be for tangible good, not simply a feeling of having done something. Although there is a strong correlation between the availability of fast-food and obesity, the evidence for a causal relationship remains weak. With limited political capital, policy fights over limiting access to fast-food may not be worth the public health returns", says the paper's author, Michael R. Thomsen.