Research shows that there is not a direct link between obesity and dining at quickservice restaurants. In fact, the causes of obesity are complex, and direct zoning restrictions on restaurants are the wrong approach to fighting this health problem.
‘ZONING FOR HEALTH? THE YEAR-OLD BAN ON FAST-FOOD RESTAURANTS IN SOUTH LA’ BY ROLAND STURM AND DEBORAH A. COHEN, A STUDY BY THE RAND CORP. PUBLISHED IN HEALTH AFFAIRS, 2009
This report examined the 2008 regulation banning new fast-food establishments in Los Angeles and found that the ordinance did not have the desired effect on health and obesity. Researchers found that the density of fast-food chain restaurants per capita is actually lower in South Los Angeles, the area targeted for the ban, compared to other parts of the region. They also found that South L.A. residents consumed significantly more calories from candy and cookies than residents in higher-income tracts, and they watch more television. Researchers concluded that other changes such as menu calorie labeling are likely to have a bigger impact on weight and obesity.
‘ARE MEALS AT FULL-SERVICE AND FAST-FOOD RESTAURANTS NORMAL OR INFERIOR?’ BY J. PAUL LEIGH AND DAEHWAN KIM, UC DAVIS CENTER FOR HEALTHCARE POLICY AND RESEARCH. PUBLISHED IN POPULATION HEALTH MANAGEMENT, 2011
Researchers found that the causes of obesity are complex, and while there is a correlation between income and obesity, in fact people with lower incomes are not spending as much on fast-food as middle income people. Fast-food visits peak at $60,000 in income and then fall slightly. Additionally, the report showed other patterns including: men and people who worked longer hours were more likely to eat out; people with more education were more likely to go to full service restaurants; and smokers were more likely to eat fast-food. “There is a correlation between obesity and lower income, but it cannot be solely attributed to restaurant choice,” said Leigh, professor of public health sciences at UC Davis and senior author of the study. “Fast-food dining is most popular among the middle class, who are less likely to be obese.”
‘COMPETITIVE FOOD SALES IN SCHOOLS AND CHILDHOOD OBESITY:A LONGITUDINAL STUDY’ BY JENNIFER VAN HOOK AND CLAIRE E. ALTMAN, PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY. PUBLISHED IN SOCIOLOGY OF EDUCATION, 2011
Researchers examined children’s weight in middle schools where junk food was sold and in schools where it was banned and found no correlation between obesity and attending a school where sweets and salty snacks were available. Also, the study found that the relationship between unhealthy snack foods, known as “competitive foods”, and weight gain did not vary by gender, race/ethnicity, or family socioeconomic status. The report suggests that there are so many opportunities to eat unhealthy foods at home and in communities that competitive foods in schools have little influence on weight.
‘ARE RESTAURANTS REALLY SUPERSIZING AMERICA? ’BY MICHAEL L. ANDERSON, UC BERKELEY, AND DAVID A. MATSA, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY – WORKING PAPER. PUBLISHED IN AMERICAN ECONOMIC JOURNAL: APPLIED ECONOMICS, 2011
This report examined whether people who live near, and eat at, restaurants have a greater risk of being fat than people who don’t, and found there is no correlation. Data showed that although consumers eat larger meals at restaurants than at home, they offset those calories by eating less at other times of the day. The researchers conclude that health policies targeted at regulating restaurants would not reduce obesity but would hurt consumer welfare.
‘A NATIONAL STUDY OF THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN NEIGHBOURHOOD ACCESS TO FAST-FOOD OUTLETS AND THE DIET AND WEIGHT OF LOCAL RESIDENTS’ BY JAMIE PEARCE, ROSEMARY HISCOCK, TONY BLAKELY, KAREN WITTEN. PUBLISHED IN HEALTH & PLACE, 2008
This study examined neighborhood access to fast-food outlets and whether it is associated with individual health outcomes in New Zealand communities. The research found little evidence that neighborhood access to fast-food was actually associated with a poorer diet or being overweight. There was some evidence that poorer access to multinational fast-food restaurants was associated with higher consumption of vegetables, but not with daily fruit intake. Survey respondents with less access to fast-food in fact had higher odds of being overweight.
‘ARE FAST-FOOD RESTAURANTS AN ENVIRONMENTAL RISK FACTOR FOR OBESITY?’ BY ROBERT W. JEFFERY, JUDY BAXTER, MAUREEN MCGUIRE AND JENNIFER LINDE. PUBLISHED IN THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BEHAVIORAL NUTRITION AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, 2006
This study examined if living near or working at a fast-food restaurant is associated with body weight. While researchers found that body mass index is associated with a high fat diet, having children and eating fast-food, they also found that the proximity of fast-food outlets to one’s home or work did not impact how often or whether residents actually ate at them. The report suggested that fast-food restaurants may not be a strong unique cause of obesity.
‘CHOICE AND AVAILABILITY OF TAKEAWAY AND RESTAURANT FOOD IS NOT RELATED TO THE PREVALENCE OF ADULT OBESITY ON RURAL COMMUNITIES IN AUSTRALIA’ BY D. SIMMONS, A. MCKENZIE, S. EATON, N. COX, M. A. KHAN, J. SHAW AND P. ZIMMET. PUBLISHED IN INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF OBESITY, 2005
This study concluded that the obesity epidemic relates strongly to reduced physical activity, but not to consumption of takeaway food. It examined recreational activity, waist circumference, and consumption of food from takeaway outlets. Increased recreational activity was associated with less risk of obesity. Body mass index (BMI) was unrelated to takeaway consumption. Waist circumference was similar for those who ate takeaway food more than once per month compared to more than once per week. Overall the obesity epidemic still exists among those who are without significant consumption of or availability of takeaway food.
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