Fast Food

The Fast Food Obesity Villain Is Fading

Don’t look now, but fast food is fading from view as an obesity villain. Equal parts of boredom and pesky facts seem to be playing a role.

Pesky Data

Another bit of pesky data surfaced recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Seeking evidence that eating out, especially on fast food, has fuelled obesity rates, Mohsen Mazidi and John Speakman conducted a study of obesity prevalence and restaurant densities across the United States.

They came up with nothing, much to their surprise. They actually found a higher density of both fast-food and full-service restaurants in areas with less obesity. That was because of a wealthier, more educated  population in those areas.

When they​ adjusted for those and other socioeconomic variables, the association disappeared entirely. So they concluded that although fast-food restaurants are “easy targets,” focusing elsewhere might be “a more effective strategy.”

Fading Public Interest

Lately, other narratives have been more interesting. Although the burger as a stupid icon for obesity persists, the subject of fast food and obesity just isn’t attracting clicks.

Google Trends, Fast Food and Obesity

Right now people are much more worked up about sugary sodas. Sugar sweetened beverage taxes – so long as they don’t hit our lattes – are riding high.

Trial and error policies that target obesity villains aren’t yielding big results yet. Maybe we’ll get lucky with the next suspect. Or maybe we’ll go back to basics and objectively follow the evidence to find real solutions.

Click here for the study in AJCN.

Fast Food, photograph © Andrey Mindryukov / flickr

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June 10, 2017

2 Responses to “The Fast Food Obesity Villain Is Fading”

  1. June 12, 2017 at 10:38 am, Michelle Brown said:

    How long will that “wealthier, more educated” factor continue to be a differentiator for obesity? This chronic disease continues to grow regardless of socio-economic status, aside from a few populations…

    Check out the stats in your zip code at

    Of course, you have to compare all of the data, including age, etc.. but it is interesting nonetheless.

    • June 12, 2017 at 11:27 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Michelle, for sharing your wise perspective.