THURSDAY, June 16 (HealthDay News) -- If a new survey of high school teens in Maine is any indication, locating fast-food outlets near schools may not actually affect students' chances of being overweight.
The survey polled more than 550 students in grades 9 through 12 at 11 schools throughout the state.
On the one hand, it revealed that most teens in the state are indeed consumers of fast-food staples such as burgers, fries, pizza and soft drinks. But it also indicated that the pull toward unhealthful food among these teens appears to be a function of generally bad dietary habits and poor nutritional knowledge, rather than the location of fast-food outlets.
"Our hypothesis was that the so-called 'built environment' -- what a person's environment around them might be -- would have an influence on the [teens'] diet and obesity rate," explained study co-author Janet Whatley Blum, an associate professor in the department of exercise, health and sports science at the University of Southern Maine. "But in terms of their school environment, we did not find that," she said.
"We think the reason for that is that the availability of unhealthy foods is basically ubiquitous," Blum noted. "So while the students said they do go and buy it around their schools, they also said that they also get that same food from home and from local stores near their home. So whether or not fast-food places are near to their schools really doesn't change the overall situation."
Blum and her colleagues report their findings in the July/August issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
The investigators found that about 25 percent of the students were either overweight or obese, and slightly less than 2 percent were underweight. Half of the students said they drank soda at least once a week, and one in 10 said they drank it every day. About two-thirds said they'd been to
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