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Fast-food proximity bad for kids at school

March 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Is there a fast-foot restaurant near your child's school? If the answer is yes, a just-released study claims your child could be at higher risk of developing childhood obesity.Lunchtime at North Hollywood High School gives some students time to dash off campus for a bite to eat. They don't have to go far. Across the street there's everything from burgers, fries, burritos and even dessert. However, a new study reports fast food within earshot of high schools is going straight to student waistlines.

Ryan Siegal says for him it was a quick choice at lunch, until his health took a nosedive.

"I got clinically obese and that led to me being pre-diabetic, and I was taking insulin for it," said Siegal. "But through sports and determination I've lost the weight and I'm off the medication."

According to the new study, mainly focused on students in California high schools, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and Columba University found that fast-food restaurants within walking distance -- 530 feet or less from a high school -- resulted in a 5.2 percent increase in the incidents of student obesity, compared to the average for California teens.

"Some students, they just like to eat out, just to get fast food, and I don't really think that's really good for the students," said high-school senior Joshua Johnson.

Health officials are concerned over what they say have been the growing rates of diabetes of heart disease among young people. Los Angeles County health officials recorded statistics showing that the obesity rates in schoolchildren in L.A. County went from 18.9 percent in 1999 to nearly 23 percent in 2007.

Some students say they're so pressed for time, eating fast food is simply better than eating on campus.

"Sometimes eating at the cafeteria is such a hassle because there's so many students there and such a short amount of time, so I guess you can say that it's better to be out here," said high-school senior Giselle Haro.

The new study found that California has been the one of the most aggressive states in reversing obesity in schoolchildren, by banning soda machines and junk machines in Golden State schools, and by banning artery-clogging trans fats. Los Angeles has a one-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a 32-square-mile area of south L.A.


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