Food and Behaviour Research

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15 December 2015 - Leeds Beckett University - Study reveals no link between food environment and childhood obesity

Carrie Braithwaite

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.

Speaking about the findings Dr Griffiths commented: “This study provides little support for the notion that exposure to fast food and other food outlets in the home, school and commuting neighbourhoods increase the risk of obesity in children. It seems that the evidence is not well placed to support governmental interventions and recommendations currently being proposed including zoning laws around schools and I would urge policy makers to approach policies designed to limit food outlets with caution.