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Fast food stores near schools have no impact on students' weight

June 16, 2011 - Washington

People generally worry that fast food restaurants near schools may raise the risk of their kids being overweight, given their chance of consuming more fast-food and sweetened beverage.

But researchers from the University of Southern Maine have found that food store locations near schools have no impact on high school students' weight.

For their study, they surveyed 552 students at 11 Maine high schools to determine height, weight, and calorie-dense food consumption of ninth to twelfth grade students.

Findings from the study revealed that half of the students consumed soda at least once a week and just over 10 percent consumed it daily, with a slightly smaller number consuming sports drinks in these time periods.

In addition, nearly two thirds had visited a burger and fries fast food restaurant in the previous month, whereas over half had visited a pizza parlor during that period.

Of the 552 students surveyed, one quarter of students were overweight or obese, whereas 73 percent were of normal weight and 1.8 percent were underweight.

Surprisingly, this study found no correlation between students' overweight risk and the presence of stores with unhealthful food choices near their schools.

"This study reports that the consumption of sweetened drinks and fast food among Maine high school students is high. One-half consumed sweetened soda weekly, and over two-thirds consumed fast food monthly, and students access these food items at a myriad of different locations," said David E. Harris, professor at University of Southern Maine.

"However, the proximity or density of stores with unhealthful food near Maine high schools does not predict the risk of overweight for students at these schools," he said.

The study was published in July/August 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.


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