NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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December 27, 2013

5 myths about obesity

(Continued)

Research shows that if we are overwhelmed with too much information or preoccupied, we have a tendency to surrender to poor dietary choices. In one study, for example, people asked to choose a snack after memorizing a seven-digit number were 50 percent more likely to choose chocolate cake over fruit salad than those who had to memorize a two-digit number. When adults in another study were asked to sample a variety of foods after watching a television show with junk-food commercials, they ate more and spent a longer time eating than a similar group watching the same show without the junk-food ads. In the same study, children ate more goldfish crackers when watching junk-food commercials than those who saw non-food commercials.

Our world has become so rich in temptation that we can be led to consume too much in ways we can't understand. Even the most vigilant may not be up to the task of controlling their impulses.

3. Lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables is responsible for the obesity epidemic.

The Obama administration's Healthy Food Financing Initiative is meant to help low-income communities that lack access to fresh food. Although the Department of Agriculture estimates that fewer than 5 percent of Americans live in these "food deserts," about 65 percent of the nation's population is overweight or obese. For most of us, obesity is not related to access to more nutritious foods, but rather to the choices we make in convenience stores and supermarkets where junk-food marketing dominates. Since we are buying more calories than we need, eating healthfully could be made more affordable by eliminating unnecessary cheaper low nutrient foods and substituting higher quality foods that may be slightly more expensive.

Obesity is usually the consequence of eating too much junk food and consuming portions that are too large. People may head to the produce section of their grocery store with the best intentions, only to be confronted by candy at the cash register and chips and soda at the end of aisles. Approximately 30 percent of all supermarket sales are from such end-of-aisle locations. Food retailers' impulse-marketing strategies contribute significantly to obesity across the population, not just for those who do not live near a green grocer or can't afford sometimes pricier healthful choices.

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