Living near fast food is and is not linked to obesity

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fatThe results of scientific surveys are a blogger's bread and butter, and occasionally a source of amusement. In the past few weeks, two studies looking at the relationship between living near fast food outlets and obesity have come to polar opposite conclusions.

A study led by John Spence of the University of Alberta, Canada, created a metric by adding together the number of fast-food and convenience store outlets within half a mile of a person's house and dividing it by the total of supermarkets and specialty food stores. For example, within half mile of my house are four fast food outlets and three convenience stores, or 10 total. There are three groceries.

By comparing this 'Retail Food Environment Index", or RFEI, of an individual against his/her weight, researchers were able to show that crap food proximity and obesity were positively linked.

Researchers from Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis, however, reported different findings from their study. These researchers reviewed the medical histories of 60,000 children as they matured from 3 to 18. Their body mass index (BMI) was compared to the increase in nearby food outlets. The study concluded that proximity to fast food restaurants had little effect on a child's weight.

The researchers also compared the BMI of these children to the number of nearby recreational facilities, and came away with the belief that living near places where kids could take part in physical activities could trim as much as 6 pounds from the waist of an overweight 8-year-old boy.

What can we glean from these studies? The density of grease palaces in your neighborhood may not be the reason, certainly not the only reason, your kid is rotund. Living near parks, courts, bike paths and ball fields could help with that problem.

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