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Buffets and obesity

In small towns in the Midwestern United States, people who eat out often at buffets and cafeterias and who perceive their community to be unpleasant for physical activity are more likely to be obese. It’s not that they don’t want to exercise or eat healthy foods, but that can be difficult in some rural communities. Researchers asked people about their access to fresh produce and to low-fat foods. They also asked about food shopping and the frequency and location of restaurant dining. The findings revealed that respondents who ate out often, especially at buffets, cafeterias and fast-food restaurants, were more likely to be obese.

TOO MANY CALORIES, COMBINED WITH TOO LITTLE EXERCISE, IS A FORMULA FOR OBESITY WHETHER A PERSON LIVES IN AN URBAN CENTER OR A RURAL AREA, BUT RESEARCHERS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS HAVE BEEN PAYING PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO OBESITY AMONG RURAL PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES. JIM DRYDEN HAS MORE…

PEOPLE IN SMALL TOWNS SPEND A LOT OF TIME IN THEIR CARS. THERE MAY NOT BE SIDEWALKS FOR WALKING OR BIKING. ACCESS TO FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES ALSO MAY BE LIMITED. IT ISN’T THAT PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO EXERCISE OR TO EAT RIGHT, BUT ACTUALLY BEING PHYSICALLY ACTIVE OR EATING HEALTHY FOODS CAN BE DIFFICULT IN SOME RURAL COMMUNITIES, ACCORDING TO RESEARCHER ROSS BROWNSON, A FACULTY SCHOLAR AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY’S INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC HEALTH.

(act) :25 o/c risk factors

Eating fast food led to about a 40 percent increased risk of

being obese. And another, important aspect was that having a

community that was pleasant for physical activity led to about

a 40 percent decreased risk of being obese. What’s important

about that is probably that we need to think broadly around the

entire community, not just about people’s individual-level risk factors.

ABOUT 30 PERCENT OF U.S. ADULTS ARE OBESE. THAT INCREASES THEIR RISK FOR PROBLEMS SUCH AS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, TYPE 2 DIABETES, HEART DISEASE AND STROKE. SO FINDING WAYS TO HELP PEOPLE MAKE HEALTHIER CHOICES COULD HAVE A BIG IMPACT ON PUBLIC HEALTH. BROWNSON STUDIED MORE THAN 1200 RANDOMLY SELECTED ADULTS IN 12 RURAL COMMUNITIES IN MISSOURI, ARKANSAS AND TENNESSEE. HE FOUND THAT LIMITED ACCESS TO HEALTHY FOODS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO EXERCISE DIDN’T NECESSARILY CAUSE PEOPLE TO BECOME OBESE, BUT HE SAYS PROBLEMS IN THE COMMUNITY ARE RELATED.

(act) :18 o/c healthy foods

Often eating at buffets led to about a 50 percent increased risk

of being obese in these rural communities. It’s important for

people to think about what a buffet means. It usually means

people use multiple plates and they fill up, sometimes multiple

times, and aren’t always eating the most healthy foods.

BUFFETS, WHERE MANY PEOPLE WILL CONTINUE TO EAT LONG AFTER THEIR APPETITE HAS SUBSIDED.

(act) :23 o/c buffet dinner

The human species is one of the few species on earth that will

still eat when we’re not hungry. Most other animals only eat

when they’re hungry, and I think the buffet is a good example

of where we’re over-stuffing ourselves when we’re eating when

we’re not hungry. And so it’s just something people should pay

attention to. It doesn’t mean that you should never eat at a

buffet, but try not to eat three-days-worth of a meal in one

sitting at a buffet dinner.

BROWNSON SAYS THIS STUDY POINTS OUT HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES.

(act) :29 o/c local level

I like to think about a quote I like from the World Health

Organization: We need to make the healthy choice the easy

choice. What we’ve done so much in society is made being

healthy difficult. Making it more difficult to find fresh

fruits and vegetables or making it more difficult to walk

to work or to go to a bike ride after dinner in the evening.

And so we need to take better account of that, and I think

especially for this sort of issue, local policy, zoning

policy for example, can have a huge impact on people’s health

risks at the local level.

BROWNSON PUBLISHED HIS FINDINGS IN THE DECEMBER ISSUE OF THE JOURNAL PREVENTIVE MEDICINE. I’M JIM DRYDEN…

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