From Cornell University:
Indulgences like sodas and junk foods have long been blamed as the prime
culprits responsible for worrying obesity trends across the United
But a new analysis by a pair of Cornell University researchers
suggests that, for the majority of the population, those food and drink
choices may not be the scourge of the American waistline as commonly
The study by professors David Just and Brian Wansink of Cornell’s
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management reexamined
national data from 2007-08 describing people’s food habits based on
their body mass index. For all but the most overweight and
underweight individuals, the consumption of soda, candy and fast food
showed no correlation to body mass index.
Indulging in those tasty albeit non-ideal food choices is often
derided as a sure-fire way to become obese. However, those categorized
as healthy weight and obese individuals consume nearly identical amounts
on average, according to the study, published in the journal Obesity
Science & Practice.
The findings upend the seemingly self-evident conclusion that
consuming unhealthy foods is the cause of high rates of obesity.
Just said previous studies reporting a positive correlation
between indulgent foods and weight status at the population level failed
to take into account the distorting effects from the roughly 5
percent of people who are either chronically underweight or morbidly
For the rest of the 95 percent of the population, the consumption of
those indulgent foods and beverages showed no significant difference
between the habits of healthy weight and overweight individuals.
The study does not say sodas and fast food are healthy
choices. But it suggests those indulgences receive far more
scorn than their impact warrants.
“Simply put, just because those things can lead you to get fat
doesn’t mean that’s what is making us fat,” says Just. "By targeting
just these vilified foods, we are creating policies that are not just
highly ineffective, but may be self-defeating as it distracts from the
real underlying causes of obesity.”
Just says banishing sodas and fast-food as the solution to curbing
in fact a flawed approach to obtaining real results. Rather, sedentary
activity levels and inadequate consumption of healthier foods, such as
fruits and vegetables, likely play an outsized influence on a person’s
Just said the public health implication of maligning junk
food as the preeminent cause of obesity goes beyond giving one class of
food a bad name. Health policies directed at those vilified foods
threaten to squander resources that could be used on more effective
community health decisions.
And for dieters, false information risks
breeding disillusionment when their efforts don’t result in the
anticipated weight loss.
“If you want to try and prevent obesity, or want to create policy
that is going to help people, simply addressing the availability of junk
foods and sodas isn’t going to do it,” says Just. “This isn’t the
difference between fat people and skinny people. It’s other things.”