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Who's to blame for obesity? Policymakers, the food industry, or individuals?
Date:1/22/2014

URBANA, Ill. Fast food restaurants take a lot of heat for the rise in obesity in the United States, but is it really their fault? A research survey conducted by two food economists revealed that most people believe individuals are to blame for their own obesity not restaurants, grocery stores, farmers, or government policies. One implication from this research is that creating and enforcing public policies to help reduce obesity and/or encourage healthier food choices may not be as effective as policy makers would like.

University of Illinois researcher Brenna Ellison explained that she and her colleague, Jayson Lusk at Oklahoma State University, are both interested in the effectiveness of different food policies. However, past research has shown many of the food policies designed to improve food choices, such as requiring calorie information on restaurant menus and taxing sugar-sweetened beverages, do not always produce the intended results. This leads one to question: Why aren't these policies working? Why aren't consumers responding to increased soda prices or calorie information on menus?

"Obesity is in the news every day so it would be hard to say that people are unaware of the policy initiatives in place to reduce U.S. obesity rates," Ellison said. "Based on our study results, the more likely conclusion is that consumers' beliefs about who is to blame for obesity don't necessarily align with the beliefs of policy makers and public health advocates. In the United States, we're known for being an individualistic-based society, so it's not exceptionally surprising that we would put this responsibility for obesity on ourselves."

"Who is to blame for the rise in obesity?" was published in a recent issue of Appetite.

An online survey was administered by Clear Voice Research whose registry of panelists is representative of the U.S. population in terms of socioeconomic characteristics, gender, and region. Of the m
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Contact: Debra Levey Larson
dlarson@illinois.edu
217-244-2880
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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