In the obesity debate, fast-food restaurants usually serve as fall guys for the plus-sized. While food-cop activists blindly assert restaurants’ culpability for America’s weight gain, the rest of us expect actual evidence to support this claim. But that’s been slow in coming: Scientific support for the fast-food/weight-gain link is as scarce as pulled pork at a PETA rally. One study published this year in the International Journal of Obesity analyzed previous research and drew the same conclusion:

The obesity epidemic is often speculatively blamed on fast food, when the actual evidence shows very little, if any, association of fast food with weight gain. Also, the evidence does not show a large enough effect size to explain the epidemic proportions of obesity prevalence. This weakly supported assertion may discourage investigation of other possible and real explanations for the epidemic, beyond fast food intake.

In contrast to food-cop dogma, researchers found that fast food plays a critical role in ensuring good nutrition for many segments of society. Because of their “convenience, ready accessibility, and relatively lower cost,” foods offered at these restaurants can meet the USDA’s dietary guidelines for “an average cost of about $20 per day.”