Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A ban on new fast food outlets?

To help to fight the obesity epidemic new policies are considered to promote healthier eating. In Los Angeles, California, city officials are considering a two year moratorium on new fast food outlets in South LA, a lower socio-economic status part of the city with very high obesity prevalence (http://articles.latimes.com/2007/sep/10/local/me-fastfood10).

The Netherlands Nutrition Centre declared in a press release that the Netherlands should follow the LA initiative, especially restricting access to fast food outlets in school areas http://www.voedingscentrum.nl/Voedingscentrum/Nieuws/2008/Fastfoodbeleid.htm).

However, professor Sally McIntyre, from the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow University, provided evidence that it is certainly not always true that poorer neighbourhoods have poorer access to healthy nutrition (http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/4/1/32). And although eating at fast food places has indeed been found to be associated with a higher body weight, higher fat intake and lower fruit and vegetable consumption, a study conducted by professor Robert Jeffery and others from the Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, also showed that proximity of fast food outlets was not associated with eating ate those places or with a higher body mass index (http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/3/1/2).

Furthermore, a recent study by professor David Crawford and colleagues from the Centre of Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (http://www.deakin.edu.au/hmnbs/cpan/) from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, found an inversre relation between proximity of fast food outlets and body mass index: having a fast food place close to the home was associated with lower BMI (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18608630?ordinalpos=3&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum).

As I have reported here before, there is certainly evidence suggesting that availability and accessibility of healthy and less healthy foods are associated with nutrition behaviours. The studies by Jeffery and Crawford indicate that these associations are, however, not as straightforward as we maybe would like them to be.