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Middle-income group eat more fast food than poor counterparts

November 3, 2011 - Washington

Tucking in fast food becomes a common practice as earnings increase from low to middle incomes as opposed to the belief that fast food should be blamed for higher rates of Obesity among the poor, a new study has found.

J. Paul Leigh, professor of public health sciences at UC Davis and senior author of the study and co-author DaeHwan Kim used data from the 1994 to 1996 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by individuals and the accompanying Diet and Health Knowledge Survey.

The nationally representative sample of nearly 5,000 people in the U.S. included data about food consumption patterns, including restaurant visits, over two non-consecutive days, which was compared with demographic variables such as household income, race, gender, age and education.

They found that eating at full-service restaurants, which involve a range of food choices and sit-down service, followed an expected pattern, and as income rose, visits increased.

In contrast, eating at fast-food restaurants, characterized by minimal table service and food preparation time, followed a different pattern.

Fast-food restaurant visits rose along with annual household income up to 60,000 dollars, and as income the increased beyond that level, fast-food visits decreased.

"There is a correlation between Obesity and lower income, but it cannot be solely attributed to restaurant choice," said Leigh.

"Fast-food dining is most popular among the middle class, who are less likely to be obese," he said.

The study will be published in the journal "Are Meals at Full-Service and Fast-Food Restaurants 'Normal' or 'Inferior'?".


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