Objectives: We examined the relationship between fast-food restaurants near schools and obesity among middle and high school students in California.
Methods: We used geocoded data (obtained from the 2002-2005 California Healthy Kids Survey) on over 500,000 youths and multivariate regression models to estimate associations between adolescent obesity and proximity of fast-food restaurants to schools.
Results: We found that students with fast-food restaurants near (within one half mile of) their schools (1) consumed fewer servings of fruits and vegetables, (2) consumed more servings of soda, and (3) were more likely to be overweight (odds ratio [OR] = 1.06; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.02, 1.10) or obese (OR = 1.07; 95% CI = 1.02, 1.12) than were youths whose schools were not near fast-food restaurants, after we controlled for student- and school-level characteristics. The result was unique to eating at fast-food restaurants (compared with other nearby establishments) and was not observed for another risky behavior (smoking).
Conclusions: Exposure to poor-quality food environments has important effects on adolescent eating patterns and overweight. Policy interventions limiting the proximity of fast-food restaurants to schools could help reduce adolescent obesity.