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Living Close to Fast Food Outlets Leads to Weight Gain, Study Claims

Living Close to Fast Food Outlets Leads to Weight Gain, Study Claims

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First Posted: Feb 14, 2014 05:44 AM EST
Fast Food
Researchers at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, examined data from the Nurses' Health Study II to retrieve data on Trauma exposure and found a link between PTSD symptoms and food addiction. (Photo : Reuters)

A study reveals kids residing in areas surrounded by fast food outlets are more likely to be overweight.

A research conducted by scientists at the University of East Anglia and the Center for Diet and Activity Research revealed that kids living in areas where they have easy access to unhealthy eating joints like fish and chips outlets, burger bars, sweet shops and pizza centers, are more likely to be overweight.

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The researchers add that the risk of being overweight also depends on the proximity and density of junk food outlets. They hope that the study will aid better planning policies to help battle childhood obesity, one of the major growing health concerns in the U.S.

In this study researchers discovered that the number of obese and unhealthy children was higher in areas that had more number of junk food outlets. This was more prominent in secondary school kids (older children) as they have more freedom of choice when it comes to eating habits.

This relation was reversed in kids residing in areas with more healthy food options. This is one of the studies that reveal an association between a child's weight and the availability of junk food.

Prof Andy Jones, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, led the research said, "This is important because there is an epidemic of obesity among children in the UK and other industrialized countries. It can lead to childhood diabetes, low self-esteem, and orthopedic and cardiovascular problems. It is also a big problem because around 70 per cent of obese children and teenagers also go on to have weight problems in later life."

The study co-author Andreea Cetateanu, UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, further explains that fast food is more common in deprived areas of the U.K. and kids hailing from a socio-economically challenged population were overweight. 

A Similar association was highlighted earlier in a study led by UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. They showed how consumption of fast food and soda was associated with intake of excess calories that lead to diabetes and obesity. Another Canadian study showed how residing in areas with more fast food centers and convenience stores than groceries and supermarkets, was linked to obesity.

"Public health policies to reduce obesity in children should incorporate strategies to prevent high concentrations of fast food and other unhealthy food outlets. But there is no quick fix -- and any interventions for tackling childhood obesity and creating environments that are more supportive for both physical activity and better dietary choices must be part of the bigger picture looking at the whole obesity system," said Cetateanu.

The study was based on data retrieved from the National Child Measurement Program that has an annual record of height and weight of over a million children at several state schools in England.

The findings were published in the journal Health & Place.

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