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Living in a neighbourhood dotted with fast food outlets can be linked to poorer bone development in early childhood, a new report suggests.
The researchers also found that greater neighbourhood access to healthy specialty stores is linked to higher bone mass in young children.
“These findings suggest that the exposure of mothers and children to more healthy food environments might optimize childhood bone development through its influence on the quality of the maternal diet and dietary choices during childhood,” said study co-author Cyrus Cooper from the University of Southampton in Britain.
The study looked at the bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) of 1,107 children at birth and at four and/or six years of age and compared the data to the number of supermarkets, healthy specialty stores and fast food outlets within a child’s neighbourhood.
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After adjustments for other variables, they found that greater access to fast food outlets was associated with lower BMD and BMC in newborns.
“More extensive research is needed, but if confirmed in further studies, this would imply that action to improve the food environment could have benefits for childhood bone development,” Cooper said.
The results of the study provide some evidence to support the introduction of zoning policies to increase the number of healthier food retailers and to decrease the number of fast food outlets within neighbourhoods.
The study appeared in the journal Osteoporosis International.