Fast Food and Obesity

30 September 2010 at 5:00 pm 10 comments

| Peter Klein |

A new Australian public-service ad compares fast food to heroin: “You wouldn’t inject your children with junk. So why are you feeding it to them?” (See the ad, along with Katherine Mangu-Ward’s funny meditations on the theme.) But does fast food really contribute to health problems, particularly obesity?

Not much, according to Richard Dunn’s study, “The Effect of Fast-Food Availability on Obesity: An Analysis by Gender, Race, and Residential Location,” in the July 2010 issue of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (it’s peer reviewed, and not funded by corporations!). Previous research finds links between the number and density of fast-food restaurants and health problems, but has difficulty identifying cause and effect (fast food could make people overweight, but fast food restaurants could be put in areas where people are overweight anyway). Dunn uses the number of interstate exits as an instrument for restaurant location to tease out the causal relations, and finds little overall effect of fast food on obesity — none at all in rural areas, a bit in medium-density areas, and only among women and minorities.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Food and Agriculture, Myths and Realities.

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Recomendaciones « intelib  |  30 September 2010 at 6:25 pm

    […] Fast Food and Obesity, by Peter Klein […]

  • 2. Matt Stiles  |  30 September 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Visiting the US often from Canada, I think it is pretty apparent what has led to the obesity epidemic: quantity.

    We have our own obesity problem here, to be sure, but when I go down south, I am literally floored every single time I walk into a restaurant. The serving sizes for most meals at a place like Applebees or Cheescake Factory is unbelievable. I can never get used to it. “You want me to eat all of THAT?”

    What we eat is certainly a problem, but I agree it’s not the biggest issue. Gorging ourselves on whatever we’re eating is the big problem. Combine that with a general lack of exercise.

    How to fix it? Has to be a change in social values. It has happened here (in Vancouver) without any external nudging or regulation. The health “kick” in this city seems to be unstoppable.

  • 3. srp  |  30 September 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I call the flying-saucer-sized Cheesecake Factory dishes the “Take Me to Your Leader” special. But most places aren’t so extreme, and most will cheerfully box up the leftovers.

  • 4. FC  |  1 October 2010 at 3:03 am

    When climate change destroys the world, only the obese will avoid starvation.

  • 5. Petra Peach  |  2 October 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Down market restaurants have capitalised on human greed, substituting quantity for quality to increase perceived value.

  • 6. jadesmith1789  |  13 December 2010 at 4:08 am

    Fast food lovers not only consume that food, but along with it, they consume more fats, carbohydrates, sugars, less fruits, and non-starchy vegetables. In short, those who eat fast food, consumes some 187 more calories everyday that ultimately increases the weight till six pounds or more in a year hence fast food obesity is becoming a matter of concern these days.

  • 7. Leonard Dunnagan  |  6 November 2012 at 5:10 am

    Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your site? My website is in the very same niche as yours and my visitors would really benefit from a lot of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Thank you!

  • 8. Peter Klein  |  6 November 2012 at 7:38 am

    No problem.

  • 9. KevinTran  |  20 July 2013 at 3:09 am

    Nice post

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