Monday, 5 January 2015

Obesity and food outlets

So, this study came out last month...

A study by researchers at Leeds Beckett University has found there is no link between the food environment and childhood obesity.

The research study, led by Leeds Beckett childhood obesity expert Dr Claire Griffiths, measured the exposure of over 13,000 children in Leeds to supermarkets, takeaways and retail outlets in three relevant environments – their home, their school and their commuting route.  These environments were then used to estimate the association between the food environment and the child’s weight status.

Results from the study, published today in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, revealed that there was no evidence of an association between the number or type of food outlets and childhood obesity in any of these environments. Additionally, there was no evidence of an association between the proximity to the nearest food outlet from the home or school and childhood obesity.

This rather puts the dampeners on the availability hypothesis which the anti-obesity industry has borrowed from the temperance lobby. Local authorities up and down the country are busy preventing chip shops and McDonalds opening up in the name of 'public health'. You'd think local councillors would want to hear what the evidence says, and yet I can't find this study mentioned by any news source.

Contrast this media silence with the publicity that was aroused when a study found that inner kids were "exposed" to a terrifying number of fast food outlets (ignoring the fact that the kids who ate in them most often were less likely yo be obese). Or compare it to the publicity generated by a researcher who called for a "takeaway clampdown" (although even the BBC conceded that "research on schoolchildren indicated children in neighbourhoods with a lot of fast-food restaurants were slimmer").

It's not as if the Leeds research is the final word on the matter, but there is - to put it mildly - an imbalance in the way the 'obesogenic environment' theory is reported.

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