Teens who go to school near fast food joints are more likely to be fat, according to a report coming out of California. The Los Angeles Times reports this morning of an eight-year study of more than one million California teens. The university researchers found that having a fast food restaurant was within easy walking distance of a school (530 feet) resulted in a 5.2 percent increase in obesity. The correlation disappeared when fast-food joints were farther from the campus.
The study didn’t break down rural versus urban schools, but a recent National Public Radio report told us that obesity was now a particular problem in rural areas. (The report told of how Fossil, Oregon, went on a town-wide weight loss program.)
In the California teen study, women and Latinos showed the greatest gain in body fat. And the difference increased when Big Macs or Taco Bells were nearby. Inevitably, the researchers suggested that cities consider banning fast-food restaurants from locating near schools, much as liquor stores are restricted. California schools no longer serve sodas or junk food. And some schools there have banned bake sales. Los Angels has a one year moratorium on new fast-food outlets in a 32-square-mile area of South LA.