-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- People's views about what
causes obesity may influence both their eating habits and their
weight, new research shows.
The finding suggests that public health campaigns may need to
factor that into the equation to be effective, the study authors
To examine the issue, the researchers conducted a series of
surveys across five countries on three continents. Published
recently in the journal
Psychological Science, the study found people in Korea, the
United States and France all held similar beliefs that either poor
diet or lack of exercise was the leading cause of obesity.
And those who linked obesity to unhealthy eating habits had
lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than those who blamed lack of
physical activity. BMI is a measurement of body fat based on height
"There was a clear demarcation," study author Brent McFerran, of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, said in a news release from the Association for Psychological Science. "Some people overwhelmingly implicated poor diet, and a roughly equal number implicated lack of exercise. Genetics, to our surprise, was a far distant third."
However, "what surprised me the most was the fact that we found
lay theories to have an effect on BMI over and above other known
factors, such as socioeconomic status, age, education, various
medical conditions and sleep habits," McFerran pointed out.
The study authors noted that the link between views on obesity
and exercise may also be associated with how much people eat. They
found Canadian participants who felt obesity was the result of
physical inactivity ate many more chocolates than those who saw
diet as the main culprit. Meanwhile, people in Hong Kong who
stressed the importance of exercise also ate more chocolate than
those who saw diet as the main cause of obesity.
The researchers concluded that people's beliefs about obesity
play a role in eating habits and BMI.
Anirban Mukhopadhyay, of Hong Kong University of Science and
Technology, concluded in the news release that this is "the first
research that has drawn a link between people's beliefs and the
obesity crisis, which is growing as fast as people's waistlines
Studies show that two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or
obese. Obesity is also a growing problem in many developed
The U.S. National Library of Medicine provides more information
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