A recent study followed 6 million adults in the United States over the span of four years to see if there was a correlation between restaurant advertising and weight gain in the population. Previous studies had already found a correlation between restaurant advertising and obesity in children, so this study was looking to see if the same connection existed in adults.
The results were somewhat mixed. There wasn’t a significant correlation overall, which is good news. We’re not going to pass by a billboard with a picture of fries and lose all self-control. But, the study did find that counties that spent the most on restaurant advertising did see a small increase in BMI whereas counties that decreased their spending on advertising the most saw a small decrease. These findings are especially important where certain populations intersect. Areas of more diversity, more poverty, and where people may have less access to fresh foods and quality grocery stores tend to have more advertising for unhealthy fast foods and sugary beverages.
The overall concern found by researchers is that populations that may already have a difficult time making health and cost conscious decisions are being targeted by fast food restaurants and junk food companies, making those food choice decisions even harder when there are limited options. Essentially, fast food restaurants spend more money advertising in low-income areas than they do in higher income areas, and while the weight gain consequences of that advertising may be marginal, they are compounded by the fact that low-income populations have less access to healthy options, less access to health care, less access to dieticians, and less access to outdoor spaces such as parks and trails for exercise.
What that means for you
Studies like this teach us to be aware of the media we are consuming. Advertising affects buying decisions. If it didn’t, companies wouldn’t spend so much money doing it. In order to combat the messages being thrown at us through our screens and on our drives, it is important to plan and prepare in advance. When we make menus, meal prep, and pack healthy snacks, we are less likely to give into the temptations of unhealthy fast foods. We can also plan ahead by knowing healthier options at our favorite restaurants so that when we are in a rush, we can make healthier choices at those places. And, if possible, hide the advertisements. Fast forward through the commercials if possible on your favorite shows and hide the ads from fast food restaurants on social media.
If you need help making a meal plan that includes quick, inexpensive menu items, give your dietician a call. They can help you plan in advance so that you are more likely to keep your healthy routine.