Pitt research reveals restaurant promoting linked to weight acquire

A study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health found that in communities as restaurant advertising increased, so did the average body mass index (BMI) of the population.

As of 2018, approximately 42% of Americans are considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There are many different causes of obesity and weight gain,” said Dr. Marian Jarlenski, Associate Professor at Pitt Public Health and one of the study’s authors. “Previous studies have shown that the fast food industry is targeting low-income or non-white areas. We wanted to take the next step to see if there was a different effect. “

In the study, published on JAMA Network Open, the researchers examined the medical records of patients of varying socioeconomic status from 44 states and compared them to how much money fast food and casual dining chains spent on marketing per capita County where each of the patients lived. Not only did fast food chains spend more money on advertising in low-income areas, but as advertising spending increased in those communities, the average BMI of the population in those communities rose.

Obesity can have serious health effects, including asthma, high blood pressure, and joint pain.

With low socio-economic communities already suffering from long-standing health inequalities, the rise in advertising may exacerbate the problem by influencing people’s behavior towards choosing unhealthy foods.

While the research team was unable to view the content of the ads to determine if the restaurants were promoting unhealthy foods, Jarlenski said the amount of advertising dollars spent could still have a significant impact on eating behavior.

“If the restaurant is promoting healthy food, you may be attracted to order the salad with the best of intentions,” Jarlenski said. “When you get there, you could say, ‘It’s been a tough day, I deserve the hamburger with big fries.’ Seeing the name of the restaurant and going there is the point of the advertisement. “

Jarlenski and her team believe the first step in tackling the impact restaurant advertising has on obesity is to understand the role marketing plays in our behavior.

“We need a consensus on the power of marketing and advertising in the United States,” Jarlenski said. “Once we have consensus as a society, we can start taking steps.”

Jarlenski and her team suggest that, much like alcohol and tobacco, warnings or restrictions on unhealthy foods would alert consumers to the health risks associated with consuming it in order to limit intake.

“People can consume alcohol in a safe and healthy way, but we still recognize that we must have limits,” said Jarlenski. “We should start thinking about it in terms of restaurants.

While alcohol is not a straight line comparison, it is a good starting point to imagine what health warnings might look like. The hope is that by educating consumers about the health effects of fast food, they can limit their intake and lead healthier lives. “

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