Fri, 14 Feb 2014
Children living in areas surrounded by fast food outlets are more likely to be overweight or obese according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR).
New research published today looked at weight data from more than a
million children and compared it with the availability of unhealthy
food from outlets including fish and chip shops, burger bars, pizza
places, and sweet shops.
They found that older children in particular are more likely to be
overweight when living in close proximity to a high density of
unhealthy eating outlets.
It is hoped that the findings will help shape planning policy to
help tackle childhood obesity.
Prof Andy Jones, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School,
led the research. He said: “We found that the more
unhealthy food outlets there are in a neighbourhood, the greater
the number of overweight and obese children. The results were more
pronounced in secondary school children who have more spending
power to choose their own food.
“But the association was reversed in areas with more
healthy food options available.
“This is important because there is an epidemic of
obesity among children in the UK and other industrialised
countries. It can lead to childhood diabetes, low self-esteem, and
orthopaedic and cardiovascular problems. It is also a big problem
because around 70 per cent of obese children and teenagers also go
on to have weight problems in later life.”
Study co-author Andreea Cetateanu, from UEA’s school
of Environmental Sciences, said: “We know that fast
food is more common in deprived areas of the UK and that
over-weight children are more likely to come from
socio-economically deprived populations. But associations between
children’s weight and the availability of junk food
have not been shown before at a national scale.
“If we can use these findings to influence planning
decisions and help create a more healthy food environment, we may
be able to help reverse this trend for future generations.
“Public health policies to reduce obesity in children
should incorporate strategies to prevent high concentrations of
fast food and other unhealthy food outlets. But there is no quick
fix – and any interventions for tackling childhood
obesity and creating environments that are more supportive for both
physical activity and better dietary choices must be part of the
bigger picture looking at the whole obesity
The research team used data from the National Child Measurement
Programme which records the height and weight of one million
children at the majority of state schools in England
They took into account factors such as people living in rural
locations having to travel further to buy food, and other variables
such as the proportion of children living in low income households
and measurements of green space which have both been associated
with exercise in children.
The study was undertaken by CEDAR, the UK Clinical Research
Collaboration Centre for Diet and Physical Activity Research, a
collaboration between UEA, Cambridge University and the Medical
Research Council (MRC).
CEDAR is funded by the British Heart Foundation, the National
Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the Economic and Social
Research Council (ESRC), the MRC, the Wellcome Trust and Cancer
‘Understanding the relationship between food
environments, deprivation and childhood overweight and obesity:
evidence from a cross sectional England-wide study’ is
published in the journal Health and Place on February 14,