Friday, January 02, 2009

Do the Math

Fast food + nearby schools = fat kids

We can wring our hands about WHY this is true -- whether it's the loss of recess or addition of too many video games, but the bottom line is this: youth who study just a short walk from a fast-food outlet eat fewer fruit and vegetables, drink more soda and are more likely to be obese than students at other schools.

This is from research published on Tuesday, and includes a whopping 500,000 middle and high school adolescents.

There are many factors that impact the health status of our kids. It would be a mistake to say, "Oh, you can't blame the restaurants, it's a problem with the home, it's a problem with exercise, it's a problem with peer pressure, blah blah blah."

In fact, it's a problem with all of those, and each should be dealt with, including the tendency of fast food franchises to perch in proximity to our schools.

"We've basically discovered that kids who are going to a school that is near a fast-food restaurant have a higher chance of being overweight and obese than kids who are at a school that is not near a fast-food restaurant," said Brennan Davis of Azusa Pacific University in California, whose study appears in the American Journal of Public Health.

U.S. youth obesity rates have tripled since 1980. The government says 32 percent of U.S. children are overweight and 16 percent are obese.

Consumer groups have pushed for laws such as July's moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in certain Los Angeles neighborhoods, while the food industry often maintains that a lack of exercise is more to blame.

The researchers said it is not yet clear whether their results apply to other parts of the United States, and this should be studied further.

But their study adds to prior research showing that fast-food restaurants tend to be clustered near schools.

"Students who were exposed to nearby fast food have a higher level of body mass index -- they weigh more. They are more likely to be overweight and obese," he said.

They also found that students whose schools were located near-fast food restaurants eat fewer servings of vegetables and fruits, and drink far more soda than students at schools not located near fast-food restaurants.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Health solutions?

Go to any book store and you will see these, as our choices for optimal health ...

No wonder we are so confused. There is Low Fat, Low Carb, Low Calorie, and everything in between.

The problem is this ... we will not suceed in our efforts to control our weight and health by finding the right molecule to micromanage because this entire strategy is wrong. We need to improve our relationship with food itself.


We have more hope for our future than we have had in a long, long time.

In my field (nutrition, health), there is reason for optimism. Despite our obesity epidemic, our Culture of Health is finally beginning to turn around.

The strength of the Organic Foods market is fantastic because it reflects how consumers are learning to avoid processed food products. They are becoming skeptical of synthetics, additives, and preservatives. This is a wonderful sign for us.

The new consumer trend is to eat locally. Fabulous!! This means that we will be supporting local farmers, and that we will see more locally produced produce in our standard grocery stores. And, for our good health, it means that we'll be eating food that did not have to be spritzed with chemicals in order to ship it half way around the world to get to you.

Another terrific sign is that we are beginning to remember some of the things that we, as a culture, have forgotten. There is health in the hearth. We are eating out less, and spending more of our money on making basic foods in our own kitchens.

Our "Culture of Health" is still quite poor and, yes, we have a long way to go. But it is now showing signs of turning around. As this happens, we will see improvements in markers (obesity / diabetes rates, heart disease incidence, etc). There is great reason to be hopeful.

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