Home Site Map Contact Us Home
An Epidemic of Obesity Myths
The "Toxic Food Environment" Causes Obesity

"Our data suggest that public health policy targeting take-away food and eating out are likely to have little impact." -International Journal of Obesity, 2005

The so-called "toxic food environment" is often blamed for contributing to American obesity. Activists and academics claim that the number of convenient, inexpensive food options makes it too easy to eat. But leading research published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2005 determined that "there was no relationship between availability of eating places and prevalence of obesity." The study found:
"Takeaway and fast foods are increasingly being blamed for the obesity epidemic; however, this linkage has not been convincing. … In these disparate towns no relationship between availability of takeaway foods and the prevalence of obesity was found. We also found no correlation between increasing takeaway consumption and obesity measured by either BMI or waist circumference … This study provided an excellent opportunity to test whether towns with greater availability of takeaway foods and restaurants have a higher prevalence of obesity. No such association was found: fast food consumption was not associated with greater obesity, although those consuming no takeaways had a lower waist circumference. The only major identifiable risk factor for the alarmingly high prevalence of obesity was physical activity. While debate on influencing the food supply and dietary intake continues, implementation of strategies which increase physical activity are urgently required."
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) adds that overall consumption of "good" foods, such as fresh fruits, is up:
"Total fruit consumption in 2000 was 12 percent above average annual fruit consumption in the 1970s. Fresh fruit consumption (up 28 percent during the same period) outpaced processed fruit consumption (up 2 percent). Noncitrus fruits accounted for all of the growth in fresh fruit consumption. Total vegetable consumption in 2000 was 23 percent above average annual vegetable consumption in the 1970s. As in the case of fruit, fresh vegetable use (up 26 percent during the same period) outpaced processed vegetable use (up 21 percent)."
Roland Sturm from the RAND Institute reports:
"There were no significant effects for dairy or fast-food prices, nor for outlet density ... We initially expected food outlets to play an important role, but no association was found ... [T]he absence of an effect on weight change in our data could also be an indication that density, or at least the variation in density, of food outlets has a smaller impact on diet than commonly assumed."