A recent study into the environmental factors that contribute to weight gain in children, has found that yes, where you live can absolutely impact your child’s health.
Sounds harsh, we know! And, we’re not about to say pack your bags and move house, but the study contained two interesting insights. Let’s take a look…
1. Those living close to fast food outlets are more likely to gain weight.
And not just a little bit of weight either. The study followed more than 1,500 primary-aged children (aged between four and 11), and found that those who lived closer to fast food were likely to gain a significant amount of weight between their first and last year of school.
In the UK, obesity rates double between a student’s first and last year of school, and in Australia the stats are just as shocking, with one in four school-aged children being classed as overweight or obese. To make matters worse, children who struggle with obesity have a 25 to 50 per cent chance of becoming an obese adult, and will end up battling the plethora of health concerns that accompany this – namely type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
2. The study also discovered that there are more fast food outlets in low-income areas.
This simply adds fuel to the fire, as cheap, nutrient-poor food being readily available in low socioeconomic areas only increases the likelihood of someone becoming obese. What a vicious cycle.
We can draw parallels here with “food deserts”, a term used to describe areas with a lack of nutritious food, yet an abundance of fast food outlets, predominantly found in low socioeconomic areas. In fact, one analysis found that residents of Sydney’s western suburbs were two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – a direct link perhaps to the increased number of food deserts in these areas.
So, what’s the answer?
While researchers are using this new environmental data to help tackle soaring childhood obesity rates, unfortunately there’s still no quick fix solution. Back in 2013, our mates over at The Conversation posed that the solution could be to discourage the purchase of unhealthy foods. Did someone say sugar tax? While taxing junk foods may be a move in the right direction, we still need to find a way for all Australians to have access to fresh, healthy food – no matter where they live. Food for thought?
Have you heard of food deserts? We’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can help tackle this problem together!