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This Industry is Not Responsible for Obesity

Editor’s Letter

This Industry is Not
Responsible for Obesity

Before you put an attorney on retainer to fight potential obesity-related lawsuits, consider the latest study that refutes the claim that restaurants are responsible for the obesity epidemic in this country.
The study, by three Harvard economists, argues that Americans are now eating fewer calories per meal than they did in the past couple of decades, and that the calories they consume at restaurants are merely replacing ones they would have eaten at home. In many instances, it points out, their caloric intake at restaurants is less than what they would have consumed at home.

Statistics established earlier also found that, on average, Americans eat merely four meals a week in a restaurant.

Americans are getting fatter, contends the Harvard study, because of the greater frequency of eating, not because people are eating more at any particular meal. In other words, consumers are taking in a lot more calories because of snacking between meals.

"The finding that increased caloric intake is from more snacks rules out two obvious accounting explanations for increased obesity," the study’s authors wrote. "The first is that obesity is the result of increased portion sizes in restaurants. If this theory were true, calories at main meals, particularly dinner, would have increased. Similarly, the evidence also rules out the view that fattening meals at fast food restaurants have made America obese."

The study—Why Americans Have Become More Obese—suggests that the population is getting fatter as a result of technological innovations as they relate to mass food preparation. In simpler terms, it takes considerably less time today to prepare food because of advances in food processing and packaging. Technology improvements in the home, such as the microwave oven, have also made it easier to eat quickly on demand.

The Harvard study found that the average number of daily snacks between meals has risen by 60% since the late 1970s. This statistic is more likely the biggest reason that 65% of adult Americans are overweight, and nearly a third are medically obese.

America is a country that hungers for instant gratification, and technology has made it very easy for anyone to eat something just about anywhere, any time. As a result, the average American has gained 10 to 15 pounds in the past 20 years.

Of course, quick service restaurants with their drive-thru windows have made it enormously easy to catch a meal on the run. But access to quick and inexpensive food is everywhere. Look at your local gas station. At one time, you could only buy car-related stuff there. Now you can eat a full meal or leave with a bag full of groceries.

The point is, going into a restaurant, whether it’s quick service or full service, is not a hazard zone, despite what the lawyers may have the courts believe. We are a country of instant gratification, and we also believe in free will. People make choices, and not all of them are good. Eating in a restaurant is one of life’s joys. Like just about everything in life, too much of a good thing isn’t always good.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF [email protected]

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