After the implementation of a law to limit the opening of stand-alone restaurants of fast-food in a region of Los Angeles, California, a new study demonstrated that the measure was ineffective in restraining the levels of obesity or in improving diets among the residents. The law was approved in 2008 and restricted the opening or expansion of fast-food outlets in one of the poorest regions of the city.
The limitation covers a 32-square-mile area south of the Interstate 10, but excludes shopping malls, and the law is thought to be the first step towards the improvement of public health. However, the research conducted by the Rand Corp. thinktank demonstrated that obesity rates continued to climb even after 2008 in South Los Angeles.
“It had no meaningful effect,” explained the Rand senior economist Roland Sturm in a press release. “There’s no evidence that diets have improved more in South LA. Obesity and overweight rates have not fallen.” The researchers from Rand analyzed the authorizations granted during this time by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Despite the fact that there were no fast-food restaurants granted licenses to open new stand-alones, there were 17 new outlets opened by chains in strip shopping centers and food courts. In addition, the research team analyzed the obesity rates in South Los Angeles in comparison with other regions of the County and demonstrated that the increase in the rates was higher in South Los Angeles than in the rest of the County.
While prior to 2008, 63% of the South Los Angeles habitants were overweight or obese, in 2011 the percentage was 75%. On the other hand, the average rate of overweight or obesity in the other regions was 57% in 2008 and 58% three years later.
Health experts helped explain that a single intervention is not enough to reverse the situation of obesity in the region, since exercise and lifestyle alterations are also needed. “It’s not just about limiting unhealthy food, but increasing access to healthy food,” said the professor of public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, Alex Ortega, who did not participate in the research.
The argument being used by advocates of the policy measure is that it works by preventing chains from opening new restaurants at major intersections and that it would take some time to show its results. “We never said this ordinance was the silver bullet. As long as we can make sure people have more options, that’s the important thing,” said Gwen Flynn of the Community Health Councils. In addition, city Councilman Bernard Parks also believes that it can help bring more markets with fresh food to the region.
The consumption of fast food is a raising concern in the country due to the increase of several medical conditions, such as obesity or diabetes. Another study led by researchers at Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California (USC) revealed that a particular hormone is capable of reducing the weight gain associated with a high-fat Western diet and also to normalize body metabolism, similar to the effects achieved with physical exercise, being therefore able to reduce obesity and balance the metabolism.