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Published: Wednesday, 11/9/2011

Study: Fast-food consumption rises with income


LOS ANGELES -- The conventional wisdom goes something like this: Obesity rates are skyrocketing among the poorest Americans, therefore fast-food restaurants must be to blame.

But a new study by a professor at the University of California-Davis medical school has found that it's Americans with salaries at the higher end of the spectrum -- in some cases as high as $80,000 to $90,000 -- who are driving fast-food consumption at the likes of McDonald's and Burger King.

"There's a strong correlation been income and obesity," professor Paul Leigh told the Los Angeles Times. "And so people say, 'Oh, well, it's the fast-food restaurants that are causing obesity among the poor.' But that's not true. To focus on fast-food restaurants as the sole cause of obesity is incorrect."

The professor of health economics said the study of the dining habits of about 5,000 Americans found that as a household's income increased, so did visits to chain fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's.

The research is to be published in a coming issue of the journal Population Health Management.

Mr. Leigh, who stresses that he's no fan of fast-food restaurants, wants to make sure that lawmakers and others in positions of power are targeting the right causes of obesity.

Soda pop, for example, is cheap and plentiful and a key contributor to obesity rates, he said.

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