Advertising by chain restaurants linked to adult weight gain in low-income areas

Unhealthy food and beverage marketing by chain restaurants is associated with modest weight gain among adults living in low-income U.S. counties, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study found a 0.053-unit increase in body mass index (BMI) among adults from low-income areas for every $1 per-capita increase in quarterly ad spending by full-service and fast food chains.

The study, which used four years of health data from nearly six million adults, was published October 7, 2020 in JAMA Network Open.

“Examined alongside previous research showing that unhealthy food and beverage marketing is associated with higher obesity risk in youth, our findings suggest that public policies or initiatives or private sector actions would help reduce the negative impacts of exposure to restaurant advertising across the population,” lead author Sara Bleich, professor of public health policy, and colleagues wrote. “These results specifically point to the potential benefits from reduced exposure to restaurant advertising among adults with low incomes.”

Read MedPage Today coverage: Chain Restaurant Ads Linked to Weight Gain in Adults