Is your child indulging in a lot of junk food lately and started to gain weight? If yes, then the food joints situated near your residence or your kids' school may be the reason behind it. According to a recent study, published in the journal Obesity, sources of junk food near a house or school may influence the eating habits of children. The findings of the study originated from an analysis of public-school records, from kindergarten through high school that comprised periodic measurements of children's height and weight. For the study, mapping software was used to compare the available information with how far every child lived from sellers of both junk and healthy foods at fast food outlets, sit-down restaurants, corner stores and grocery stores. The researchers found that proximity to fast and convenience food sellers may impact a student's chances of becoming obese.
The team of researchers at NYU School of Medicine found that children, aged between 5 and 18, who live roughly 0.025 miles away from a fast-food outlet 38 percent were overweight while 20 percent were obese. Likewise, children who lived within a half-block of corner stores or bodegas 40 percent were overweight while 21 percent were obese.
"Our study indicates that living very close to food outlets with a lot of unhealthy, junk food choices is likely not good for reducing the risk of children being overweight and/or obese," said senior researcher Brian Elbel.
"Just having food outlets a block farther away -- and potentially less convenient or accessible -- can significantly lessen children's chances of being obese or overweight," added Elbel.
Even a drop in obesity rates of just a few percentage points, he says, translates into potentially saving thousands of children from obesity and its associated health problems, including increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, and early death.
Elbel, an associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine and at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, says the findings could support policies that limit fast food outlets and corner stores to keep them at a minimum distance away from housing complexes or neighbourhoods with persistently high rates of obesity.