Law Curbing Fast Food Didn't Cut Obesity Rates

Most eateries in targeted neighborhoods were too small to be affected by zoning law, researcher says

From the WebMD Archives

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 19, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A Los Angeles law that restricts the opening of new fast food restaurants in poor areas has not lowered obesity rates among people who live in those neighborhoods, a new study finds.

"The South Los Angeles fast food ban may have symbolic value, but it has had no measurable impact in improving diets or reducing obesity," study author Roland Sturm, a senior economist at RAND Corp., said in a news release from the nonprofit research organization.

In addition, overweight and obesity rates in those neighborhoods have increased faster than in other parts of the city and other parts of the county since the restrictions were first passed in 2008, according to the researchers.

There are about 700,000 people in the areas affected by the zoning regulation that restricts the opening or expansion of standalone fast food restaurants in Baldwin Hills, Leimert Park and parts of South Los Angeles and Southeast Los Angeles.

"This [finding] should not come as a surprise: Most food outlets in the area are small food stores or small restaurants with limited seating that are not affected by the policy," Sturm added.

Another member of the research team pointed out one good piece of news that came from the research.

"The one bright spot we found is that soft drink consumption dropped, but the decrease was similar in all areas across Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the rates of overweight and obesity increased, and they increased fastest in the area subject to the fast-food ban," study co-author Aiko Hattori, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said in the news release.

The study, published online March 19 in the journal Social Science & Medicine, was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.