By Charlotte Webster-
Children who eat healthier diets reside close to food outlets that sell a variety of foods, according to an outstanding research.
The geographical location in which children live greatly influences their diet in a way that provides a fresher outlook on the environment of children, the research suggests.
The study was carried out by NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre. It assessed the diets of more than 1,000 six-year-olds in the Hampshire city to see the impact of the local environment and access to food outlets.
The researchers marked an area around each child’s home and school, in order to create an “activity zone” where they spend the majority of their time every day. They also recorded the number and type of food outlets within each zone. The painstaking research designed to promote healthy diet among children is an eye opener to some of the factors that influence the diet of children, like accessibility to a range of healthy foods,
Parents responded to requests to report what their child ate for three months. The results, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, showed that children who had access to a greater number and range of food outlets, as well as access to healthier shops such as greengrocers, were linked to a better diet.
Dr Christina Vogel, a senior research fellow in public health nutrition at the University of Southampton, said: “These findings show better diet scores were associated with exposure to a greater number of healthy outlets.
“The results strengthen the argument for local authorities to increase the number of healthy food outlets to which young children are exposed, which is of particular note for Southampton where children are exposed to more unhealthy food outlets.”
It shows that if convenient stores and other food outlets sold a variety of healthy foods, children would in general eat healthier food because of their exposure to a variety of foods .The problem is that most children are surrounding by shops selling all manner of foods, including very sugary food.
The researchers are calling for the authorities to implement the lessons from the findings of the study released during National Obesity Awareness Week. It showed that children in Southampton were exposed to more unhealthy food outlets, such as takeaways and fast-food restaurants, than healthy food stores.
Figures from NHS Digital in October last year showed that 9.6% of children in reception classes in 2016-17 were obese, compared with 9.3% the year before. One-fifth of Year 6 children (aged 10-11) were obese, the same as in 2015-16.