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TUESDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Black and Hispanic teens who go to school near fast-food restaurants are more likely to be overweight and to not benefit as much from exercise as white or Asian students, researchers have found.
Because teens often make independent food choices before, during and after school when they are away from their parents, the investigators suggested that a better understanding of the local fast-food marketing strategies and their outcomes based on income, ethnicity and location is needed.
"Our study demonstrates that fast food near schools is an environmental influence that has magnified effects on some minority children at lower-income urban schools," study co-author Brennan Davis, an assistant professor of marketing at Baylor University, said in a university news release.
As mobile technology improves the ability of marketers to reach "ideal" customers based on their lifestyle and location, "fast-food promotions will likely target those adolescents nearest to fast-food outlets and who are at greatest risk for obesity. Voluntary industry actions, or policies that support healthier food near schools, can contribute to healthier school food environments," Davis added.
For all students, having a fast-food restaurant one mile closer to school almost entirely offsets the benefits of exercising one day each week. For black and Hispanic students in lower-income urban neighborhoods, however, the study found that having a fast-food restaurant one mile closer to school may negate the benefits of up to three days of exercise each week.
"The findings imply that it is important to examine the behaviors and contexts associated with low-income and ethnic minority status in urban areas," study co-author Sonya Grier, associate professor of marketing at American University, noted in the release. "These populations not only are the fastest growing but also have the highest rates of obesity, and research is relatively limited."
About one-third of the students attended school in a large suburban area, and 55 percent went to school within a half-mile of a fast-food restaurant, according to the report published in the current issue of the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing.
Of the students involved in the study, 21 percent were aged 12 or younger, 11 percent were 13 years old, 24 percent were 14 years old, 12 percent were 15 years old, 23 percent were 16 years old, and 9 percent were 17 or older. Just over half of the students were girls. The researchers also noted that 40 percent where white and 13 percent were Asian, 7 percent were black, 38 percent were Hispanic, and 18 percent were another ethnicity. All of the students lived in California.
While the study found an association between having a fast-food outlet near school and negative effects on weight and exercise among teens, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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