March 26, 2015

The True Effects Of Los Angeles’ Curb On Fast Food Outlets

Back in 2008, the city of Los Angeles tried to improve the obesity epidemic in a few low-income areas of the city by passing an ordinance to restrict new or expanded standalone fast food restaurants. The belief was that restricting the availability of less healthy fast foods would yield a commensurate drop in consumption.

According to a RAND study, published in the journal Social Sciences & Medicine these regulations don’t seem to have made a significant difference as obesity rates and the consumption of fast food has not abated. Not only, RAND reports, did the obesity rates in the areas targeted by law actually increase since the restrictions were enacted, but it was an even greater increase than in other parts of Los Angeles where there were no restrictions. Also, while soda consumption did drop, there was a similar drop in all areas of Los Angeles, regardless of the law.

Our Take

While the researchers state that one of the reasons for this failure is that most new fast food restaurants were not covered by the law, the problem is much deeper. We all know that obesity is disease and food addiction is very real. As a result, an ordinance such as the one that Los Angeles passed in 2008 can never be truly effective. It misses the mark on the true causes of obesity, physical and psychological.

Overweight and obesity are truly complex problems that have their roots in a myriad of issues. We eat when we are stressed, tired, emotional, happy, sad, dehydrated and more. And while fast food has certainly played a part in the nation’s obesity problem, there is no doubt that the increased availability of high fat, highly processed foods in our grocery stores, are contributory as well. That is why most unsupervised diet programs fail to offer the lasting results that sufferers desperately need.

Ultimately, just restricting the number of the fast food restaurants in a given area cannot eliminate the physical and psychological trap that is obesity. Treatment requires a delicate balance of individual motivation, supervision and a true desire to change one’s health. This may include medically supervised dieting and even bariatric surgery for those who have not had success with other, more conservative methods of weight loss.

2018, WakeMed