Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Teen Health

Font Size

Fast Food Restaurants Near Schools Don’t Raise Obesity Risk

Unhealthy Foods So Accessible That Distance From Schools Makes Little Difference
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 15, 2011 -- A child’s risk for becoming overweight or obese does not seem to increase when fast food establishments and stores are located near school grounds, a new study finds.

“Unhealthful food choices are ubiquitous and consequently stores selling these food items near schools have no significant effect on student obesity,” researchers led by David E. Harris, PhD, of the University of Southern Maine in Portland say in the July/August 2011 Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Researchers compared the weight and height of 552 students from 11 high schools in Maine to the proximity of food stores to their schools. They computed the driving distance to all food stores within 1.24 miles of the schools or to the closest store. Ten schools had one or more stores that sold soda, and eight schools had one or more fast food restaurant less than a mile from their grounds, the study showed.

Students gave self-reports of their height and weight. A quarter of the students were overweight or obese, 73% were normal weight, and just under 2% were underweight.

Half of all the students drank soda at least once a week, and more than 10% drank soda daily, the study showed. There were similar patterns seen for sports drinks. Nearly two-thirds had eaten at a burger-and-fries restaurant in the past month, and more than half had visited a pizza parlor.

The most popular places students got soda were convenience stores (51%), home (43%), fast food restaurants (41%), and grocery stores (37.5%). Students reported getting sports drinks from convenience stores (45%), school vending machines (41%), home (29%), and grocery stores (26%).

As Maine Goes?

The proximity to fast food establishments did not increase risk for obesity among these students, but other studies in different populations have shown such a correlation. The reason for the discrepancy between studies may be related to the fact that Maine is largely made up of suburban or rural communities. There may be a greater concentration of fast food restaurants closer to schools in urban environments.

This study “provides more evidence that higher calorie/higher fat and added-sugar food choices remain a part of teens' eating patterns and [that] accessibility is not an issue for teens, so whether a quick-serve restaurant is close to schools or not doesn't automatically change their behavior pattern,” says Connie Diekman, RD, the director of university nutrition at Washington University in St Louis.

“Changing the eating behaviors of teens requires more than simply controlling what is sold,” she says via email. “Teens are able to make choices and they need education and motivation to limit their intake of calorie-dense foods.”

Today on WebMD

unhappy teen couple
mini cupcakes
teen couple
girl running with vigor
Sugary drinks
teen wearing toning shoes
young woman texting
teen boy holding a condom
Teen girls eating ice cream
teen sleeping
couple kissing
Taylor Swift