Outdoor fast food ads: another link to obesity

While past studies have demonstrated a strong link between television advertising and obesity, there's another type of mass media to be wary of now: outdoor fast food ads.

Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) are suggesting that the more outdoor fast food ads that exist in a given area, the higher the likelihood the residents will be overweight.

Dr. Lenard Lesser, now a research physician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute in California, says that previous studies found lower-income neighborhoods have higher volumes of fast food ads.

"This is one of the first studies to suggest an association between outdoor advertising and obesity," he notes.

The study

For the study, researchers analyzed two highly populated areas in both New Orleans and Los Angeles. Both areas had more than 2,000 people per square mile and the researchers randomly selected areas that included a mixture of both high- and low-income residents.

The results showed a clear link: a higher percentage of fast food ads were related to higher rates of obesity. Lesser elaborates:

"For instance, in a typical census tract with about 5,000 people, if 30 percent of the outdoor ads were devoted to food, we would expect to find an additional 100 to 150 people who are obese, compared with a census tract without any food ads," Lesser said.

Because the study only included two areas, the researchers note the need for further investigation. They aren't claiming the ads cause obesity, but that they might increase the likelihood of it.

The study was published online in BMC Public Health.

Source: Science Daily

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