(Press-News.org) A new paper in Q Open finds that the availability of fast food restaurants on the route between children's houses and their schools does not affect children's weight.
Reducing the rate of childhood obesity is a top public health priority in the United States where obesity rates are 18.4% for those ages 6-11 and 20.6% for those ages 12-19. Childhood obesity is a documented risk-factor for negative physical and mental health outcomes. Obese children are also more likely to become obese adults and suffer associated health problems.
Researchers have proposed that the accessibility of affordable healthy food options may be an important determinant of childhood weight. Many public health figures are concerned about the role of fast-food restaurants on food consumption and resulting obesity in children. Local governments in the United States have the power to influence children's food options through the zoning process. Several cities, including Austin, Texas, and New York, have considered banning fast-food restaurants near schools.
This article investigates the effect of fast-food availability on childhood weight outcomes by gender, race, and location. The researchers used a novel identification strategy based on changes in fast food exposure along the route between home and school that occur as students progress through the public school system and transition to different types of schools, e.g., from elementary schools to intermediate schools or from intermediate schools to high schools.
Researchers here used Arkansas student Body Mass Index, collected from 2004 to 2010, and matched it to home and school address through annual school registration records. Home address was used to geocode the location of student residences.
The researchers identified fast-food restaurants on the route between children's houses and their schools. Fast food restaurants included the major hamburger chains and drive-in restaurants (e.g. McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's), dairy stores with large fast-food menus (e.g., Dairy Queen), take-out pizza establishments, quick-service taco places (e.g., Taco Bell), sandwich delicatessens (e.g., Subway, Quiznos), and fried chicken restaurants (e.g., KFC, Chick-Fil-A). The researchers excluded specialty stores such as ice-cream parlors not selling other fast foods (e.g., Baskin-Robbins), coffee shops (e.g. Starbucks), and donut shops (e.g. Krispy Kream).
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.
Researchers then measured changes in fast-food exposure as students changed schools as a result of a natural progression through the school system over time, for example, the change from elementary school to junior high school, and thus had different exposure to fast food restaurants. The researchers found that changes in exposure have no effect on BMI z- score.
For example, increasing fast-food exposure by three restaurants moving from 4th to 10th grade increased the mean change in BMI by .003, less than one percent (0.7%) of the standard deviation.
Ultimately the researchers find no meaningful association between fast-food exposure along
the route to school and BMI. This conclusion holds across different ages of children and for subsamples by gender, race, and ethnicity. The researchers also found no differences by income as measured by whether the child qualifies for free or reduced-price school lunches or between urban and rural children. These findings suggest that simple exposure to fast-food establishments in the commercial food environment was not a primary driver of excess childhood weight gain among children. While it is possible that fast food restaurants matter but their effects on BMI are longer-term, the researchers found no evidence that longer exposures as in the 4th to 8th grade transition differ meaningfully from the 4th to 6th or 6th to 8th grade transitions.
"Policies that place restrictions on actions of individuals and businesses are costly," said the paper's author, Michael R. Thomsen. " 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."
This research was funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, grant number 2011-68001-30014; the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture under a Hatch Grant, project TX09332; and the National Institutes of
Health under Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award No. T32 MH18029-21 from the National Institute of Mental Health.
The paper "A longitudinal analysis of fast-food exposure on child weight outcomes: identifying causality through school transitions" is available (at midnight on Jan 14th) at: https://doi.org/10.1093/qopen/qoaa007
Direct correspondence to:
Michael R. Thomsen
Professor of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness
217 Agriculture Building,
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville AR 72701
To request a copy of the study, please contact:
Sharing on social media? Find Oxford Journals online at @OxfordJournals
Researchers in South Korea have developed a phototherapy technology that can significantly increase efficiency while reducing the pain of chemotherapy and minimizing side effects after treatment. The President of Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Seok-Jin Yoon announced that a research team led by Dr. Se-hoon Kim at the Theragnosis Research Center (KU-KIST Graduate School of Converging Science and Technology) has developed a cancer-targeted phototherapeutic agent that promises complete elimination of cancer cells without side effects. It involves only one injection and repeated phototherapy. This development ...
While there is an abundant amount of research about traumatic brain injuries in athletes and those serving in the military, the same data is scarce when it comes to concussions and head and neck injuries sustained due to intimate partner violence.
Carrie Esopenko, assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Sciences in the Rutgers School of Health Professions says that the World Health Organization estimates that one in three women will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in her lifetime, and studies suggest that anywhere between 30% to 90% of women who experience physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner experience head trauma. Yet not enough data is being collected to understand how this head trauma affects cognitive and psychological ...
Cities have become the focus of global climate mitigation efforts because as they are responsible for 60-70% of energy-related CO2 emissions. As the world is increasingly urbanized, it is crucial to identify cost-effective pathways to decarbonize and enhance the resilience of cities, which ensure the well-being of their dwellers. In this study, we propose a "SolarEV City" concept, in which integrated systems of cities' roof-top photovoltaics and electric vehicles (EVs) supply affordable and dispatchable CO2-free electricity to urban dwellers.
The SolarEV City assumes that 70% of toof-top of cities at maximum are used for PV and all passenger vehciles are converted to ...
August 2020 set new record high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the northwestern Pacific Ocean and around the Japan coasts. A new study led by National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) researchers revealed that this warming record could not happen without human-induced climate changes.
The northwestern Pacific sea surface becomes warm seasonally around August every year. However, it was unprecedentedly high in August 2020, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The extremely high SSTs exceeding 30°C, which lasted until mid-September, may have intensified tropical cyclones such as ...
At cruising altitude, airplanes emit a steady stream of nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere, where the chemicals can linger to produce ozone and fine particulates. Nitrogen oxides, or NOx, are a major source of air pollution and have been associated with asthma, respiratory disease, and cardiovascular disorders. Previous research has shown that the generation of these chemicals due to global aviation results in 16,000 premature deaths each year.
Now MIT engineers have come up with a concept for airplane propulsion that they estimate would eliminate 95 percent of aviation's NOx emissions, and thereby reduce the number of associated early deaths by 92 percent.
The concept is inspired ...
Tsukuba, Japan -- We laugh when we see Homer Simpson falling asleep while driving, while in church, and while even operating the nuclear reactor. In reality though, narcolepsy, cataplexy, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder are all serious sleep-related illnesses. Researchers at the University of Tsukuba led by Professor Takeshi Sakurai have found neurons in the brain that link all three disorders and could provide a target for treatments.
REM sleep correlates when we dream. Our eyes move back and forth, but our bodies remain still. This near-paralysis of muscles while dreaming is called REM-atonia, and is lacking in people with REM sleep behavior disorder. Instead ...
Non-invasive imaging technique called 31-phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy used to measure mitochondrial function in patients with motor neuron disease (MND)
Evidence shows that mitochondria - often referred to as the cell's battery - are impaired in MND
This technique could be used to measure the effectiveness of future treatments for MND
Researchers from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) have used a new imaging technique to measure the function of mitochondria in patients with motor neuron disease (MND).
The research, published today (13 January 2021) ...
Patients with type 2 diabetes who follow a strict low carbohydrate diet for six months may experience greater rates of remission compared with other recommended diets without adverse effects, suggests a study published by The BMJ today.
The researchers acknowledge that most benefits diminished at 12 months, but say doctors might consider short term strict low carbohydrate diets for managing type 2 diabetes, while actively monitoring and adjusting diabetes medication as needed.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes worldwide and diet is recognised as an essential part of treatment. But uncertainty remains about which diet to choose and previous studies have reported mixed results.
To address this evidence gap, a team of international researchers ...
The build-up of calcium in a major artery outside of the heart could predict future heart attack or stroke, a new Edith Cowan University led study has demonstrated.
Published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the research could help doctors identify people at risk of cardiovascular disease years before symptoms arise.
Analysing 52 previous studies, the international team of researchers found that people who have abdominal aortic calcification (AAC) have a two to four times higher risk of a future cardiovascular event.
The study also found the more extensive the calcium in the blood vessel wall, the greater the risk of future cardiovascular events and people with AAC ...
Decades of research show that depression, stress, loneliness, and poor health behaviors can weaken the body's immune system and lower the effectiveness of certain vaccines. A new report accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests that the same may be true for the new COVID-19 vaccines that are in development and the early stages of global distribution. Fortunately, it may be possible to reduce these negative effects with simple steps like exercise and sleep.
Vaccines are among the safest and most effective advances in medical history, protecting society from a wide range of otherwise devastating diseases, including smallpox and polio. The key to their success, however, is ensuring that a critical percentage of the population is effectively ...