Junk Food Gets Death Row Reprieve

November 6th, 2015 by MorganDowney Leave a reply »

A new study has given a reprieve for junk food as a cause of obesity. David Just and Brian Wansink at the Cornell University Food and Brand Laboratory found that the intake  of these foods (soda, candy, and fast food) are not related to Body Mass Index (BMI) in the average American adult.  Using NHANES data (which has its issues) they found that consumption of soda, candy and fast food is not linked to BMI for 95% of the population. The exception is for those who are underweight or who have Class III obesity (formerly morbid obesity). Dr. Just explained, “This means that diets and health campaigns aimed at reducing and preventing obesity may be off track if they hinge on demonizing specific food. 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.

These findings are consistent with other recent studies. In a 2011 study, James Hill and colleagues found that changes in diet were consistent across normal, overweight and obesity groups. Energy intake increased in all groups. Likewise, in 2013, Yancy and colleagues found that, over 4 decades, trends in energy and macronutrients were similar across BMI classes.

A word of caution. These studies rely on BMI categories. Whether macronutrients or junk food have a greater deleterious effect on waist-hip ratio or increases in visceral adiposity remains to be determined.