Study finds deregulation fueling obesity epidemic

Feb. 2, 2014, Reuters

Governments could slow or even reverse the growing obesity epidemic if they introduced more regulation into the global market for fast foods such as burgers, chips, and fizzy drinks, researchers said on Feb 3.

A study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that if governments took firmer action, they could start to prevent people becoming overweight and obese — conditions with serious long-term consequences such as diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.

“Unless governments take steps to regulate their economies, the invisible hand of the market will continue to promote obesity worldwide with disastrous consequences for future public health and economic productivity,” said Roberto De Vogli of the University of California, Davis, who led the study.

The WHO is urging governments to do more to try to prevent obesity happening in the first place, rather than risking the high human and economic costs when it does. Continue reading

Fast food: A symptom, not the cause of childhood obesity

Jan. 21, 2014, WUNC North Carolina Public Radio

It’s easy to point the finger at fast food joints. A decade after the breakout documentary, “Super Size Me,” the cheap, un-nutritious, happy meal is a go-to candidate for public ire when it comes to childhood obesity.

But a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina says that explanation might be too easy.

After studying nearly 5,000 children, the researchers say that fast food consumption may be indicative of dietary problems, but the greater concern lies in a child’s broader diet throughout the day. Continue reading

Many people ignore, miss calorie counts on fast food menus

Nov. 15, 2013, U.S. News & World Report

By Kathleen Doheny

Posting the calorie content of menu items at restaurants is designed to make diners stop and think, tally up the total, and make wiser choices.

In real life, that doesn’t seem to be the case, according to new research.

In a poll of 2,000 Philadelphia fast food customers, aged 18 to 64, few used the information, even if they noticed it, said study author Brian Elbel, an assistant professor of population health and health policy at the New York Univesity School of Medicine.

“Forty percent of the sample saw it and about 10 percent [overall] said they used it and reported to us that they purchased fewer calories,” he said. Continue reading

Most people use calorie information at fast food restaurants, when they read it

Nov. 22, 2013, Journal of Public Health

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adults who read calorie information when it is available at fast food and chain restaurants tend to use the information when purchasing food. The authors, including Heidi Blanck, chief of CDC’s Obesity Prevention and Control Branch and member of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research, found that 95.4 percent of those who read calorie information used it at least sometimes when making their food choices. The study was published online this week in the Journal of Public Health. Continue reading

Nutrition standards won’t fix ‘Big Food’s’ worst child marketing tactics

July 9, 2013, The Huffington Post

By Michele Simon

Last month, I participated in an important panel at a childhood obesity conference to discuss the current strategy backed by some advocacy groups: asking industry to market “healthier” foods to children. But as Susan Linn and I recently argued, any marketing to children is harmful, regardless of the product’s nutritional content.

Instead of begging corporations to tweak the grams of sugar, fat and salt that these highly processed junk foods contain, we should demand that industry stop exploiting children altogether. Some advocates argue this approach is too radical. But it’s actually far more practical and ultimately more effective because of certain key tactics that industry uses to target children. Continue reading

Study: Too few kids use fast food calorie info

May 23, 2013, WebMD

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

While some fast food chains are required to provide calorie and other nutritional information to help customers make informed choices, kids who eat fast food at least twice a week are 50 percent less likely to use this information than kids who eat fast food less often, according to a new U.S. study.

Those most likely to use the calorie information are girls and children who are obese, said the researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Continue reading

Do fast food restaurants fall short on their health claims?

May 16, 2013, LiveScience

By Christopher Wanjek

Fast food restaurants are serving healthier options, although only marginally so, according to a study published last week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

You may have known that changes were afoot in the fast food restaurants most vilified by doctors for serving unhealthy fare. McDonald’s, Burger King and others now offer salad, fruit, and skim milk. The new offerings, advertised prominently, would make one think that a trip to the local burger joint is suddenly heart-healthy, and waistline-friendly.

Not quite, said Mary Hearst, director of public health at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn., and lead author on the report. Continue reading

Teens ate ‘too many calories’ at Subway and McDonald’s, study says

May 8, 2013, Los Angeles Times

By Mary Macvean

Adolescents who went to McDonald’s and Subway in Los Angeles bought about the same number of calories at each, despite Subway’s reputation as a healthier place to eat, researchers said.

The menus are not the point, lead researcher Dr. Lenard Lesser of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute said by phone. “Our study was not based on what people have the ability to pick, our study was based on what adolescents actually selected in a real-world setting.”

The adolescents bought an average of 1,038 calories at McDonald’s and 955 calories at Subway. The calorie difference was not statistically significant, the researchers said. Their work was published May 6 in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Continue reading

Fast-food menu offerings vary in dietary quality, but are consistently poor

By analyzing the food menus from the top fast-food restaurant chains in America, new research published in the journal Public Health Nutrition shows that these restaurants do not offer many menu items that meet dietary guidelines for healthy eating. Even those menu items that were part of the kid’s menu or marketed specifically as healthy, still fell far short of meeting dietary recommendations for fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Continue reading