Los Angeles instituted a ban on the opening of new fast food restaurants in poor areas of the city, but the act did not lower obesity rates, according to a new study. Roughly 700,000 people live in areas of the city in which the prohibition applies, including south and southeast Los Angeles, Baldwin Hills, and Leimert Park.
The Rand Corporation carried out a study that found that residents living in the areas affected by the ban did not see a reduction in rates of obesity. In fact, rates of obesity have increased since the start of the ban.
"Data from the California Health Interview Survey show that fast-food consumption and overweight/obesity rates have increased from 2007 to 2011/2012 in all areas. The increase in the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity since the ban has been significantly larger in south Los Angeles than elsewhere," the Rand Corporation reported.
Consumption of soft drinks is down since the ban, but that drop was seen across the city, not just in the areas affected by the ban.
The Los Angeles Fast Food Ban went into effect in 2008, prohibiting the remodeling of standalone fast food restaurants in southern Los Angeles. The regulation does not apply to small restaurants that are not part of a major chain. Significant amounts of high-caloric foods are still being sold in the area in independent stores and restaurants.
"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," Roland Sturm, a senior economist at RAND Corporation, said.
It is still unknown why the percentage of people who are overweight and obese in south Los Angeles is rising significantly faster than in other areas of the city and nation.
Fast foods are being blamed, by several health organizations and doctors, for playing a role in increasing obesity rates around the country.
"These foods are highly processed, full of fat, calories and sodium ... Keep in mind that a general caloric recommendation for Americans is 1,500-1,800 calories per day and around 50-60 grams of total fat. Choosing a typical fast food meal every day can lead to increased calories, which can lead to weight gain and can lead to other health conditions like heart disease," The Obesity Action Coalition reports.
A Big Mac from McDonald's contains 540 calories and 29 grams of fat, while a Burger King Whopper has 40 grams of fat and 640 calories. Most Americans should take in a total of between 1,500 and 1,800 calories each day.
This new report was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Study of obesity rates in Los Angeles following the ban on fast food restaurant development in the city was detailed in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
Photo: Ruth Hartnup | Flickr