A study out of the University of Illinois-Chicago claims that restaurant food is driving up the number of calories consumed by kids and teenagers. According to Reuters, the study relied on asking teens and parents to recall everything they ate over a 24-hour period on two occasions. As we’ve noted before, this methodology can be problematic.
This finding conflicts with other studies, like one by researchers from the University of California-Berkeley and Northwestern University, that find that people compensate for any excess calories from restaurant dining by cutting back their consumption through the rest of the day. Also, the occasional treat never hurt anybody.
Don’t expect the credible contradictory information to give regulators pause, however. We’ve seen governments across the country (most recently the Washington, D.C. suburb of Prince George’s County, Maryland) attempt to use the zoning code to keep out restaurants. We’ve heard the Institute of Medicine call for the creation of “strong nutritional standards” and ensuring that foods that meet them “are available in all places frequented by the public.” And of course, New York has banned big sodas in eateries.
We don’t expect any of these heavy-handed intrusions to affect obesity rates. The only thing that will really reverse obesity is a return to personal responsibility in both diet and exercise.