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Living near fast food may not make kids gain weight

June 16, 2009 |  2:37 pm

Living near fast food restaurants may offer temptation, but does it actually cause people to gain more weight?

Iko49gnc Maybe not, according to a new study that concluded living in the vicinity of a fast food establishment doesn't mean kids will begin to pack on the pounds. Researchers looked at medical records of 60,000 children between the ages of 3 and 18 who went to an Indianapolis health care facility between 1996 and 2006. A little more than half were African American, 30% were Caucasian and 12% were Hispanic, and most were poor.

The children's body mass index was tracked over the years, as was the development of neighborhood fast food restaurants, supermarkets and recreational facilities accessible to the public, such as basketball courts, pools and soccer fields.

Fast food restaurants had little discernible effect on weight, as did supermarkets, thought to be integral for lowering weight, since they sell fruits and vegetables. However, study authors believe that living near fitness areas, kickball fields and volleyball courts could potentially lead to weight loss, as much as 3 to 6 pounds for an overweight 8-year-old boy.

The study differs from similar research because it's based on fixed effects -- the effect of the changing environment on residents. Cross-sectional studies, say researchers, tell more about people's preferences for living near amenities such as restaurants and recreational facilities.

The study, done by researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis appears in the National Bureau of Economic Research's Economic Aspects of Obesity.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times