Junk food shouldn’t be demonized as obesity’s main factor, a recent study published in the journal Science & Practice is now claiming.
Experts at the Food & Brand Lab at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, conducted this research, by reviewing data pertaining to approximately 5,000 people.
The participants’ food consumption for a period of 24 hours had been analyzed during the National Household and Nutrition Examination Survey, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 2007 and 2008.
This information was cross-referenced with each individual’s body mass-index (BMI), which assessed weight based on height and gender.
A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered to be normal, one between 25 and 29.9 refers to an overweight person, while having a reading of 30 and upwards suggests the person is obese.
It was discovered that in fact being overweight isn’t that strongly associated with junk food consumption, although including such meals rich in sugar and fat isn’t the best option nutritionally speaking.
People with lower BMIs have been found to consume more sweets and soda than those with normal weights, while overweight and obese individuals were proven to ingest fewer sugary products, salty snacks or fizzy drinks in comparison with those having average BMIs.
Overall, preference for soda, fast food or candy had a statistically significant effect on body weight only for 5% of the participants, who were either chronically underweight or morbidly obese (with a BMI of 40 or more).
In fact, having extra pounds was more closely linked to a heightened average daily calorie intake, coupled with lack of physical exercise.
More precisely, Americans have been found to consume 2,544 calories every day in 2010, whereas in 1970 they only had 2,039 calories on a daily basis.
Another factor contributing to the obesity epidemic is more significant intake of foods which promote weight gain. White bread daily consumption has increased from 409 calories in 1970, to 582 calories in 2010. Intake of added oil and dairy fats has also escalated from 346 calories to 589 calories, while sugar intake experienced a lower growth, from 333 calories to 367.
“This means that diets and health campaigns aimed at reducing and preventing obesity may be off track if they hinge on demonizing specific foods”, declared David Just, co-author of the study, and director of graduate studies in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University.
This doesn’t mean that indulging in junk food won’t lead to packing on excess pounds. After all, these meals are indeed heavily processed and high in fat and sugar, but it must be kept in mind that other factors may be even more important when it comes to staying slim.
As professor Just explained, in order to achieve the desired weight loss, people should reconsider their entire diet and eating habits, and focus more on their daily amount of physical exercise as well.
Excessive attention given to reducing the intake of junk food consumed every day is counter-productive, if sedentary lifestyles are still the norm, or calorie consumption greatly exceeds the body’s needs.
Another related aspect is portion control, by monitoring energy intake especially when dining out. A study published in the Journal Public Health Nutrition has revealed that calorie consumption rises by about 200 when going to restaurants or similar establishments, than when having meals at home.
As a result, experts recommend opting for home-made lunches or dinners, served in smaller salad plates, in order to fight the temptation to have large servings.
On the other hand, they emphasize that too much self-control while eating is also detrimental, because it can cause frustration, food anxiety and binge eating.
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