It turns out blaming junk food for obesity is just a scapegoat.
Pigging out on candy bars and Big Macs before washing it all down with soda is definitely not the most nutritious decision. However, is junk food to blame for the rising obesity epidemic? Contrary to popular belief, a new study says no.
Researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that junk food intake is actually not related to Body Mass Index (BMI) in the average adult. David Just and Brian Wansink, the co-directors of Cornell’s food lab, analyzed a nationally representative sample of adults in the United States to try and break down how junk food consumption really affects the population.
SEE ALSO: Viral Rumors About Coca Cola: Debunked
Shockingly, the researchers found that consuming candy, soda, and fast food is not linked to BMI for a whopping 95 percent of the population. Plus, the 5 percent exception was the segment of the population who are on extreme ends of the BMI scale — either chronically underweight or morbidly obese. But of the majority 95 percent, the researchers found no significant difference in the effects of consuming junk food between overweight and healthy weight individuals.
Thus, the obesity epidemic and the majority of weight problems are mainly perpetuated by eating habits instead of junk food. Many popular diets and health campaigns aim to demonize certain foods, but Dr. Just explains they’re missing the core of the problem. "If we want real change we need to look at the overall diet, and physical activity,” he said in a press release. “Narrowly targeting junk foods is not just ineffective, it may be self-defeating as it distracts from the real underlying causes of obesity."
In reality, habits like snacking, stress-eating, and lack of physical activity are the biggest contributors to weight problems. So the researchers urge dieticians and clinicians to focus on the eating and physical activity patterns of individuals rather than simply warning them to eliminate all junk food from their lives.
Even if the food you’re consuming is healthy, if you eat too much of it, you’re going to gain weight. That goes for not making any time to exercise as well — even if you aren’t eating junk foods, sitting around all day could lead to weight gain. "There is nothing flashy about that advice," Just said. "It's not magic, there is no silver bullet here."
The researchers simply want to inform the public that candy, soda, and fast food aren’t the weight-gain demons that they’ve been made out to be. Of course, they aren’t healthy by any means, and the researchers clarify that they aren’t condoning a diet that’s heavy on junk food.
So refrain from using these findings as an excuse to flee to Taco Bell and order one of everything on the menu. Like most things, junk food is fine in moderation. What’s more important is your eating habits as well as your physical activity. But thankfully, some occasional junk food no longer has to be seen as the big bad wolf.