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Fattening fears

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2:07pm, January 10, 2006

The more concerned parents are about neighborhood safety, the more likely their youngsters will be overweight, a new study finds.

When pediatrician Julie C. Lumeng was working at an inner-city clinic in Boston, parents of overweight children often told her, "I can't send my kids out to play because it's not safe. There's too much crime," she recalls. The new study "grew out of that experience," explains Lumeng, now at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Her team randomly selected families of 768 first graders from 10 locations around the country who were part of a long-running federal study on child health. The children were divided into four groups on the basis of their parents' ratings of safety-related issues such as neighborhood crime, police presence, and drug-related activity.

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