Fast Food And Child Obesity Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Fast Food and Child Obesity

Jonathan Kwan

This study identifies the underlying correlation of fast food consumption and the increasing rate of child obesity. The system of fast food is prevalent in all countries, with each country having its own variations of types of items served and the nature of establishments serving. The popularity of fast food is due to the convenience of fast service, packaged food and low cost. Now major fast food industries try to make their product seem as healthy as possible. It is likely that the convenience is influencing the growth of childhood obesity in the United States. In addition, the factors of media, family, and environment bring about differences within our community. Understanding the correlation between these factors is vital in producing a solution. However, there needs to be a better support for causation, not just correlation. The children and youth will one-day influence the dynamics of the world. Influencing life decisions and daily aspects, all children deserve healthier choices. Through education, healthy choices can be made available to all.

Fast Food and Child Obesity


This research investigates the relationship between fast food and childhood obesity. The topic is a public health problem, since childhood obesity is on the increase in the U.S. As well as the globally. In 2006, an estimate of 15% of children and adolescents in the U.S. were overweight. This condition cost the nation $93 billion in preventable medical expenditures to the American healthcare system (Evans, 2006). This is a challenge since the rates of obese children in the nation has doubled since the late 1970s. This is an indication of a profound change in children's relationship with food (Lewin & Lindstrom, 2006). The problem is the continuance of current obesity trends will lead to higher healthcare costs, since an obese child can become an obese adult. According to Strauss (1996), a child of 10-14 years old, who is obese has an 80% greater likelihood of becoming an obese adolescent.

The projections for 2030 are higher rates of obesity at 50-80% in the U.S., 30-40% for Mauritius, England, Australia, and over 20% for developing nations (Strauss, 1996). Though literature agrees obesity rates are on the rise, the challenge is addressing the problem of obesity. This is because it is a multi-factorial disease involving genetic, environmental, epigenetic, sociological, and psychological factors. Moreover, the availability of fast food is the main cause of obesity rates, though the correlation between obesity and availability of fast foods remains controversial. This research carries out a thorough review of literature to identify the existence of a relationship between consumption of fast food and childhood obesity.

Thesis Statement

The aim of this study is to identify the underlying correlation between fast food capitals and the increase in child obesity rates. The fast food system is prevalent globally, but varies across nations depending on type of food items and nature of establishments serving fast food. Fast foods are popular for their convenience in fast service, packaging, attractiveness, and low cost. Fast food advertisements are displayed everywhere, and are attractive, with the industry promising healthy and tasty products. However, are these factors the causes of the growth of childhood obesity in the U.S. There is a need for making the right choice of children and the youth, not only to reduce childhood obesity, but adult obesity in the future, through healthy choice today.

Literature Review

Fast-Food Restaurants

A 2004 survey, of New Orleans, found that most black neighborhoods, often low-income neighborhoods, have 2.4 fast food restaurants per square mile unlike 1.5 restaurants in predominantly white neighborhoods (Eagle, 2012). These African-American neighborhoods are more likely to have higher percentage of obese residents, and by extension children and adolescents. The results of this study prove that the presence of fast food restaurants in an area are directly linked to overweight and obesity cases. This is also supported by the study by Fraser (1998), which carried out a weighted accessibility of the number of fast food outlets in a 1-Km radius of 13-year-old participants' residence. The study carried out a regression analysis of the fast-food consumption of 13-year-olds and weight at ages 13-15. The regression analysis also assessed fast-food accessibility and consumption rates. The study found that there was a high correlation between the existence of fast-food outlets and consumption of fast food in an area. These studies indicate the need for marketing messages drive people to consume unhealthy foods they are aware they should avoid. Chou's (2008) research shows that advertisements have a direct affect children for their expose them to fast food products. Therefore, understanding advertisements and their impact can assist in comprehending factors that contribute to overweight. In addition, this can lead to a change in marketing and product strategies that can reduce risks of overweight.

According to Grotz (2006), there is evidence marketing strategies focus on the interests of consumers in new food choices. Food and beverage companies need to increase the public's knowledge on factors that contribute to overweight. The study shows that marketing and advertisement messages have a direct effect on consumers eating behavior and food choices. Therefore, product and marketing changes are required to assist in reducing the right of weight gain.

Household Income

A review of literature indicates that family income does influence childhood and adolescent obesity. In most cases, children from low-income families are more likely to be overweight than children from other socio-economic households. According to Eagle (2012), in the state of Massachusetts alone, the percentage of overweight children varied from 9.6-42.8%. The study also found that low-income households have a higher opportunity for obesity cases. Eagle's (2012) study is critical for it investigates the root causes of the childhood obesity and types of household influences. Of interest was the role of behavior and its impact on childhood obesity. Eagle (2012) found that in low-income households, the frequency of frying food doubles, with vegetable consumption and moderate/vigorous exercise going down. Children from these households have poor dietary and physical activity behavior, associated with family behavior, which causes obesity. Moreover, the geographical location and proximity of fast food restaurants influence consumption of fast food, and by extension obesity.

Family influences on childhood and adolescent obesity are also tied to environmental factors. Horst (2006), investigated environmental correlates of fat, energy, vegetable/fruit, snack/fast food and soft drink intake in children between the ages of 4-12 years and adolescents of 13-18 years. The study's results find that the child's environment plays a significant role in determining the dietary their behavior, especially in the context of obesity. The most influential associations Horst (2006) identifies were parental intake, children's fat, parent and sibling intake, vegetable/fruit intake. Adolescent energy and fat intake were influenced by parental education and adolescent fruit/vegetable intake. The results along with the findings on location of fast food restaurants within residential locations, and family income level indicate that environmental factors play a significant role in childhood obesity.

The study by Horst (2006) shows that environmental factors at the household level, with socio-cultural and economic aspects are predominantly the influencers of childhood obesity. The highest association of these factors was between the parent's intake of food and education, to the child's overweight and obesity. A study of household environment, it is easy to make a correlation between fast food and health. This is also supported by the research of Kumanyika (2008), of environmental influencers of childhood obesity. The study is of importance to this research for it points out environmental factors like ethnicity and culture as determiners of various biologists. Kumanyika (2008) indicates that what an individual eats can lead to obesity and associated disorders like metabolic syndrome. This is because environmental factors like culture and socio-economic class influence eating behavior and determine weight regulation among children and adolescents. Kumanyika (2008) identifies that these factors alter physiological systems within the children's bodies, causing overweight, obesity, and associated health conditions and diseases. Fast foods are associated with the increased risk of acquiring metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes (Kumanyika, 2008). However, the study shows that not all persons with obesity develop type II diabetes. Moreover, they influence different mechanisms that influence eating disorders especially among adolescents. Therefore, in the treatment and prevention of childhood and adolescent…

Sources Used in Documents:


Chou, S. (2008). Fast Food Restaurants Advertising on Television and its Influence on Childhood Obesity. The Journal of Law & Economics, 51, 599-618.

Darwin, A. (2008). Childhood Obesity: Is it Abuse? The Children's Voice, 17, 4-24.

Eagle, T. (2012). Understanding Childhood Obesity in America: Linkages between Household Income, Community Resources, and Children's Behaviors. The American Heart Journal, 163, 816-837.

Fraser, L. (1998). Fast Food and Obesity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14, 245-248.

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