Link found between fast food and teens

March 4, 2009 5:40:57 PM PST
Teenagers love fast food, but how far will they go to get it?

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On one side of the street is Oakland Tech. On the other, a half-a block full of burgers, pizza, donuts and fries.

"Four pieces of chicken and fries only cost me $4 dollars. Sweet and sour sauce on it, it's good," said one student.

A new UC Berkeley study shows that California 9th graders whose schools are within a tenth of a mile from fast food are five times more likely to be obese; a tenth of a mile is 528 feet -- easy walking distance.

But at a quarter-mile to half-mile, they found no link between fast food and obesity in 9th graders.

Ninth graders are usually around 14 and 15 years old. Researcher Vikram Pathania says they eat at close-by fast food not only because they can't drive.

"Students are constrained to stay close to school can't wander far even if they are 9th-graders and the second reason is to do with self-control," said Pathania

The researchers say obesity in children ages six to 19 in the U.S. has increased from about five percent in the early 1970's to 16 percent between 1999 and 2002. The number of fast-food restaurants doubled in the same period.

Oakland Unified School district says it's aware of the problem, and is fighting it with better cafeteria food.

"What we're trying to do is trying to replicate some of the taste and the appeal of hot food items that we sell in our cafeteria," said Troy Flint from Oakland Unified School District.

The Berkeley researchers think we need to better understand if the temptation of fast-food is equally hard for everyone to resist, or if teenagers are more vulnerable.

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