Californians have a reputation for being health-food junkies, but the truth is an estimated 2 million California teens drink at least one sugary drink a day, and more than 1.6 million eat fast food at least twice a week, according to new research. Those who live or go to school in neighborhoods where fast-food restaurants and convenience stores outnumber supermarkets tend to partake in these foods more often, according to the report from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
UCLA scientists calculated the ratio of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores to grocery stores and produce vendors near teens’ homes and schools. They used the ratio as a measure of how available healthful foods were in their neighborhoods – the lower the score, the healthier the food options.
They then paired this information with surveys of more than 3,600 teens from more than 40 California counties taken in 2007. Among teenagers who went to school or lived in areas that scored a five or higher, more than half had a sugary drink at least once a day, on average, and roughly 50% had fast food at least twice a week, according to the UCLA report.
Top performing counties included Sonoma, Yuba, Contra Mesa and Mendocino, where less than 45% of teenagers had at least one soda per day, along with Shasta, Humboldt, San Luis Obispo, Mendocino and El Dorado, where less than 35% of teens ate fast food at least twice a week.