Press Release

New Study: Food Environment Plays Very Small Role in Obesity Rates

According to a new study posted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, environmental factors such as food prices or restaurant location play a minuscule role in America’s increasing rates of obesity. The new study conducted by Drs. Charles Baum (Middle Tennessee State University) and Shin-Yi Chou (Lehigh University) analyzes factors such as employment, food prices, prevalence of restaurants, and urbanization to determine the relative causes of Americans’ expanding waistlines.

Baum and Chou’s research finds that changes in food costs and the increasing prevalence of restaurants over the past 30 years are not linked to rising obesity rates. This flies in the face of health activists and politicians looking to address obesity rates through government regulations such as fast food zoning laws, placing grocery stores in food deserts, and taxing products like soda.

“Health zealots and legislators like to place the blame on corporations for perpetuating a so-called ‘toxic food environment’ that hampers Americans’ ability to shed pounds,” said J. Justin Wilson, CCF’s Senior Research Analyst. “However, this new study demonstrates external factors like at-home food prices or fast food locations are not the culprit for America’s burgeoning bellies. Lack of personal responsibility is what is making us overweight, and as this study seems to substantiate it will take personal responsibility to get us out of this mess. Fundamentally, the key to maintaining a healthy weight has always been striking a balance between calories in and calories out.”

Socio-economic factors that did lead to a statistical change, albeit slight, in America’s weight gain include less physically demanding occupations and urban sprawl. Modern-day conveniences such as taking a bus to school or working at a desk for eight hours decrease the number of calories exerted. However, even these factors are small players in obesity.

“The push to single out and regulate products or companies in an attempt to solve the ‘obesity crisis’ fails to acknowledge the myriad factors and personal choices that contribute to weight-loss,” continued Wilson. “Creating one-size-fits-all policies that ignore the importance of personal responsibility will do little to curb obesity rates.”

Founded in 1996, the Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices. For more information, visit


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