Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Surprise: Access to healthy food doesn't mean healthier kids

Here's an interesting research finding: despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, people who live in neighborhoods without access to fresh foods (sometimes called "food deserts") aren't significantly more likely to be obese than those who do have those choices. Other factors, such as age, gender, and the BMI of kids' parents are more influential in how fat the kids turn out to be.
That's according to a highly respected RAND Corporation study just published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Among the findings:
  • The proximity of stores selling healthful food was limited for most study participants; 70% of families with children had no supermarkets within a half mile of home. Approximately 7% of participating families lived within a half mile of two or more supermarkets.
  • The distance to fast food restaurants varied widely across the sample. While “45% of adolescents had no fast food restaurants in 10-minute walking distance, 28% had three or more in proximity from school.”
  • The BMI of students was more closely related to gender, age, and their parents’ BMI than proximity to healthy food options. “Boys tend to consume less vegetables and fruits but more milk, fast food and soda than girls.”
  • While adolescents typically consumed “considerably more soda, high sugar foods, and fast food” than their younger counterparts, the intake rates of juice, fruits and vegetables were approximately the same for both groups.
  • Overall, the study “found no evidence to support the hypotheses that improved access to supermarkets, or less exposure to fast food restaurants or convenience stores within walking distance, improves diet quality or reduces BMI among Californian youth.”


  1. I am reading an absolutely incredible book about food education and its impacts on health. The book is written by a mother who lived in France for 4 years and she discusses their completely different view and attitude towards food. Long story short, I was to raise my children (if I have any!) in France.

    You should get your hands on it, I think you would appreciate it, "French Kids Eat Everything" by Karen Le Billon.

    1. I already am a lifelong Francophile, so this is an easy sell.
      Thanks for the tip -- I'll look for it.

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