July 28th, 2011
Teen junk food junkies on the rise, UCLA study finds
If lots of fast food restaurants and other outlets that sell junk food are located in your neighborhood, then your teen is more likely to regularly chomp on burgers and fries and wash them down with a soda. That is the unpalatable finding of a new study, released on July 27, from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research that examined the effect of higher concentrations of less healthy food outlets on adolescent junk food consumption. As a result, nearly three-quarters of California teenagers live or go to school in neighborhoods that are crowded with fast food restaurants and other outlets that sell unhealthy food (convenience stores, liquor stores, dollar stores and pharmacies) relative to the number of healthier food outlets, such as grocery stores, produce vendors and farmers markets. And unsurprisingly, teens who live or go to school in such neighborhoods are more likely to drink soda and eat fast food.
Research has shown that the consumption of fast food and soda has been linked to taking in excess calories and can contribute to diabetes and obesity. Using both the 2007 California Health Interview Survey and InfoUSA, a 2007 database of U.S. businesses, the researchers calculated a Home and School Retail Food Environment Index, which measured the number of less healthy food outlets relative to the number of healthier outlets surrounding the homes and schools of California teens, and compared that measurement to teen junk food consumption. They found that the average California teen has more than seven times as many junk food outlets near home and school as healthier food outlets. Furthermore, teens in more unhealthy neighborhoods were 17% more likely to drink soda every day and 18% more likely to eat fast food at least twice a week than their peers in healthier neighborhoods.