Published on February 1, 2013 at 8:30 AM
"For instance, in a typical census tract with about 5,000 people, if 30 percent of the outdoor ads were devoted to food, we would expect to find an additional 100 to 150 people who are obese, compared with a census tract without any food ads," Lesser said.
Given that the study focused on only two areas, the authors urge further research to determine if the findings would be replicated in other areas. Because the study was cross-sectional, the researchers do not claim that the ads caused the obesity. They also note that self-reported information about weight is subject to recall bias, and people often under-report their true weight.
But this study suggests enough of a link between outdoor food advertising and "a modest, but clinically meaningful, increased likelihood of obesity" to warrant further examination, the researchers conclude.
"If the ... associations are confirmed by additional research, policy approaches may be important to reduce the amount of food advertising in urban areas," the researchers write, while noting that outright bans on such ads might be deemed unconstitutional. "Innovative strategies, such as warning labels, counter-advertising, or a tax on obesogenic advertising should be tested as possible public health interventions for reducing the prevalence of obesity."
Source: University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences