Proximity To Junk Food Influences What Is Eaten
For the more than 1 million children attending New York City public schools, their choice of what to eat depends on which food sources are close to where they live.
As measured in city blocks, proximity to fast and convenience food sellers can impact a student’s chances of becoming obese, according to a new study by researchers at NYU School of Medicine.
“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,” says study senior investigator Brian Elbel, PhD.
“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,” adds Elbel, who says his team’s latest study is the largest analysis to date of urban childhood obesity in the United States.
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.
Surprisingly, Elbel notes, the study found no increase in obesity risk based on the distance from home to grocery stores and sit-down restaurants. Elbel says this finding suggests that neighborhood “food deserts,” where fresh produce is in short supply, plays a small role one way or another in childhood obesity rates in urban areas.
In essence, he says, what appears to put kids at risk is how easily and quickly they can access junk food.