Junk food ‘not to blame for the obesity crisis’

According to research published in the journal Obesity Science & Practice, consumption of junk food is not related to body mass index in the average adult.

The research, carried out at Cornell University, looked at national data collected in the US between 2007 and 2008 that described people’s eating habits and recorded their BMI. The researchers found that junk food is only a factor in the BMI of five per cent of the US population — those at the extreme ends of the scale.

The researchers found that there is no significant difference in consumption of junk food between overweight and healthy people, leading them to believe that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of weight problems aren’t linked to fast food.

Dr David Just, the study’s lead author, said: ‘This means that diets and health campaigns aimed at reducing and preventing obesity may be off track if they hinge on demonising specific foods. 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.’

The findings of this study suggest that doctors treating overweight patients should look more closely at overall consumption patterns, such as snacking and physical activity, rather than focusing on eliminating junk food from their patients’ diets.

The latest Health Survey for England shows that 62 per cent of adults are overweight or obese. The World Health Organisation recently predicted that by 2030 three quarters of men and 64 per cent of women in Britain will be overweight.