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Greater Access to Fast-Food Restaurants Impacts Bone Health in Infants, Study Finds

Researchers have found that the type of eateries available in a child's neighborhood is related to his bone health.

McDonald's in urban area Grisha Bruev/Shutterstock
New research has found a link between the amount of fast-food restaurants in a neighborhood and the bone development of children who live there.

Researchers from the University of Southampton examined the bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) of more than 1,000 children. Each child's BMD and BMC was evaluated at birth and then again at 4 or 6 years old.

Once data was collected, researchers analyzed how many supermarkets, healthy specialty stores, and fast-food restaurant were located in each child's community.

Interestingly, neither the children's nor their mothers' actual diets were recorded as part of the study; however, researchers found that simply having greater access to fast food correlated with poorer bone health in the children.

For newborns, the study concluded that both BMD and BMC were lower when infants lived in areas with greater access to fast food.

While BMD and BMC of 4 and 6 year olds were not significantly impacted by fast food exposure, BMD was higher for this age group when there were more healthy specialty stores in their neighborhoods.

"These findings suggest that the exposure of mothers and children to more healthy food environments might optimize childhood bone development through its influence on the quality of the maternal diet and dietary choices during childhood," said the study's co-author, Professor Cyrus Cooper.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn.

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