nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Ban On Fast-Food Restaurants in South Los Angeles: Not Promising


Government makes the wrong assumptions about fast-food and obesity in zoning ordinance.

A study * published in the journal Health Affairs (Oct 09) looks at whether a one-year ordinance passed by the city council in Los Angeles will have the impact on obesity that council members and the media thought it will.

The ban affects South Los Angeles and doesn't allow any new fast-food restaurants to open.  Prior to the unanimous council vote, it was noted that South LA has a greater problem with obesity, and lower income inhabitants.  All that was needed was a study performed and touted by the media (the LA Times)  that the ratio of fast-food to other restaurants was 44% higher in this area (than in other areas of LA) to lay a foundation for government to ban new eateries.

Note that the assumption is that poor people are being exposed to a "toxic food environment" that they are powerless to avoid, and that this is one cause of their higher rates of obesity.  This is a common assumption among city planners and even some public health people:  you can lead a horse to water, and they will drink....No wait, that's not what the old saying implies.  In fact, it implies the opposite...which you'd think government would remember.  You can lead a horse to water, or an obese person to fresh vegetables, but you can't make them consume.

So it will come as no surprise to people with common sense that the study found the following:
1.  There were actually fewer fast-food restaurants in South LA than in other parts of the city. (There goes the data justifying the ordinance--undermining the premise).
2.   There were no differences in fruit and vegetable consumption between South LA residents and others.
3.   There was no difference in the proportion of the population engaging in moderate exercise between difference areas of LA.
4.   There was no difference in rates of dining out between the areas.

Starting to get the picture?  Wrong premise, wrong assumption, no result.

BUT, they did find that South LA residents had to go farther to get to restaurants and grocery stores.  They also found there were a much greater proportion of snack and soda vending in South LA.   So, Mr. Government, make it hard to eat or buy groceries, and put in a lot of vending and what do you get?  Snack eating at greater rates.

Putting this all together, the city ordinance made it harder to eat in a restaurant, and it's already farther to get to a grocery store.  No surprise, South LA folks eat a lot of candy bars, hot dogs, and sodas.

MAYBE it would have helped to restrict vending, but I doubt it.  My suggestion is to promote grocery businesses through lower business taxes.

In any case, this is another example of government making health decisions for you, and getting it wrong, as usual.  Good luck with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and health care reform.

Opinions are entirely my own.
*  Available free only in abstract.  I take the Journal, but can't make it so you can see the whole study.  I will continue to make the science available everywhere I can.

1 comment:

Doc D said...

Your suggestion to encourage farmer's markets is a good one. California doesn't make it easy to accomplish that: they have among the highest business taxes in the nation. Also the government cut off the water supply to a big chunk of Southern California farmers in order to protect an endangered small fish--some kind of smelt, I think. The crops all died. You can read the story by clicking on this link.

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