No Quick Fast-Food Fixes

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This letter first appeared in the Los Angeles Times on July 28, 2008:

Re: "Panel OKs fast-food curbs," July 23

Obesity and its resultant health complications, especially diabetes, are indeed a challenging public health problem in our nation. But banning so-called fast-food restaurants from specific zones will not ameliorate the problem.

People will walk a few extra blocks to get the products they crave, especially in today's cost-conscious environment. Eliminating Big Macs and their ilk won't bring in supermarkets and green grocers -- and even if it did, the public needs to be educated about the real root causes of obesity: poor nutritional balance and inadequate exercise.

Restricting food choices by government fiat will not stem the tide of excessive calories, most of which are consumed at home. The mantra "calories in versus calories out" must be taught in our school curricula and at home. Schoolchildren should be lured outside, away from their computers and video games, for healthful exercise.

There is nothing uniquely fattening about fast food. Healthier choices are available at those restaurants. Consumers must be provided with information that allows them to make better selections to effectively combat obesity. Being told what to eat by the City Council will not empower anyone to make wise choices or change their preferences.

Gilbert Ross, M.D.
Medical Director
American Council on Science and Health
New York, NY