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  • Fast food, soft drinks and candy not associated with BMI according to Cornell researchers

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Thursday, February 25, 2016 9:29 am Email this article

    “[F]or the majority of patients – including those who are overweight (BMI up to 44.8) – there was no relationship between the frequency they eat of these foods [fast food, soft drinks and candy] and their BMI [body mass index] in this sample [a nationally representative sample of adults in the United States],” according to a recent study by Brian Wansink and David Just from Cornell University.

    A summary of the study written by Katherine Baildon from Cornell University notes that…

    “Soda, candy, and fast food are often painted as the prime culprits in the national discussion of obesity in the United States.

    “While a diet of chocolate bars and cheese burgers washed down with a Coke is inadvisable from a nutritional standpoint, these foods are not likely to be a leading cause of obesity in the United States according to a new Cornell University Food and Brand Lab study conducted by the Lab co-directors David Just, PhD, and Brian Wansink, PhD.

    “The study, published in Obesity Science & Practice, finds that intake frequency of these foods is not related to Body Mass Index in the average adult.

    “Researchers Just and Wansink reviewed a nationally representative sample of adults in the United States and found that consumption frequency of soda, candy and fast food is not linked to Body Mass Index (BMI) for 95% of the population.

    “The exception is those who are on the extreme ends of the BMI spectrum: those who are chronically underweight and those who are morbidly obese.

    “Given that there was no significant difference in the consumption frequency of these indulgent foods between overweight and healthy weight individuals, the researchers concluded that the overwhelming majority of weight problems are probably not caused by consumption of soda, candy and fast food alone.

    “‘This means,’ explains Dr. Just, ‘that diets and health campaigns aimed at reducing and preventing obesity may be off track if they hinge on demonizing specific foods.’

    “He adds, ‘If we want real change we need to look at the overall diet, and physical activity. Narrowly targeting junk foods is not just ineffective, it may be self-defeating as it distracts from the real underlying causes of obesity.’

    “These findings suggest that clinicians and practitioners seeking to help individuals obtain a healthy weight should examine how overall consumption patterns such as snacking and physical activity influence weight, instead of just eliminating “junk foods” from patient’s diets.”


    Are obese people telling the truth about fast food and junk food?

    A possible problem with this study is that it is based on a survey of what people told them.

    Research has found that obese people may under-report calorie intake by as much as half (50%).

    Is it possible that obese people may also under-report how often they eat fast food and other junk food?

    My guess is, yes, they do.

    So the data used for this study may not be accurate.


    Just DR, and Wansink B. Fast food, soft drink and candy intake is unrelated to body mass index for 95% of American adults. Obesity Science & Practice, 2015; doi: 10.1002/osp4.14: 126-130.

    The paper is posted here.

    A summary of the study is posted here.

    Author’s Contact Info

    Brian Wansink
    Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
    Cornell University
    210C Warren Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853 USA
    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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