Researchers say the new study throws into doubt previous claims that fast food restaurants were the primary cause of obesity.
Middle class families in the U.S. eat more fast food than less-healthy poor ones, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis.
The findings suggest restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Burger King might not be the biggest culprits in America’s fight against expanding waistelines because the poorest, and least healthy, families can’t afford to eat out as often.
Researcher J. Paul Leigh studied a survey of the eating habits of 5,000 Americans in the mid-1990s and found that fast food consumption increased with income level.
‘(People with low incomes) are not spending as much on fast food as lower-middle income or middle income. Just to say, “Fast food is the sole problem,” that’s not where the sole problem is,’ Mr Leigh told the Sacramento Bee.
When incomes reach about $60,000 a year, fast food consumption declined, as families chose sit-down restaurants over the drive-through lane.
Overall obesity rates in the United States exceed 1-in-3. For poor and less-educated women, that number rises to more than 40 percent.
Mr Leigh and other researchers warn the new study doesn’t let fast food restaurants off the hook, but it could force public health experts to examine other causes of obesity.
McDonald’s costs an average of $28 to feed a family of four, a price poor people just can’t afford, Mr Leigh said.
One alternative cause of obesity is sugary foods and drinks, which can be the only options available to families in poor neighborhoods. In these places, convenience stores replace grocery stores. Fresh fruits and vegetables are often unavailable, researchers said.
The study did not examine which other foods Americans eat that might be contributing to obesity
Among the study’s other findings:
- People with more education were more likely to go to full-service, sit-down restaurants.
- Smokers were more likely to go to fast-food restaurants.
- People who worked longer hours were more likely to eat out.
- Men were more likely than women to eat out.
Via Daily Mail