Children in inner city London are particularly vulnerable to obesity as a result of regular consumption of high fat, salt and sugar fast foods, according to a survey published by online journal BMJ.
More than half of the children in deprived areas of the inner city may be consuming fast foods and drinks at least twice a week, according to the responses. The study was led by Dr Mei-Yen Chan, of the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University.
Out of a total of 193 pupils quizzed between the ages of 11-14 in two schools operating an 'open gate policy' allowing them to leave the premises at lunchtimes, one in 10 said they visited a fast food outlet every day.
"These children are exposed to an environment that is likely to cause obesity and it is not surprising that in this situation, many of these children are already overweight or obese and will likely become obese as adults," said the study's authors. "Clearly actions need to be taken to either limit the ability of these children to access fast food outlets or to change their purchases at these outlets (eg. less calorie-dense, with more fruit and vegetables and with less fat and salt)."
More prone to cardiovascular disease
Seven out of 10 children from black ethnic backgrounds and more than half of those from Asian backgrounds said they bought fast foods more than twice a week. The researchers conducting the survey claimed this was concerning, because people from those ethnic backgrounds were more prone to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The most commonly cited reason for buying fast food was taste, with 92% of children saying they liked the taste of the products sold in fast food outlets. The second most popular reason was ready access, with children saying they could buy fast food products quickly.
Of those who said they bought fast food at least twice a week, 71% said they did so because they wanted to join their friends.
Chips the most popular option
Chips proved to be the most popular option in terms of the type of fast foods bought. According to the results, girls were more likely to buy chips with nothing else, but boys were more likely to buy larger portions.
The authors of the study pointed out that chips were usually laden with fat and salt, and that their high salt content was likely to encourage thirst and the purchase of soft drinks to quench that thirst.
A total of 70% of those surveyed said they preferred sweetened (non-diet) soft drinks over other types of drinks when buying food at fast food outlets.