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Fast food is not the cause of childhood obesity: Poor diet is to blame

Fast-food restaurants are not to blame for the alarming epidemic of childhood obesity, according to a study published Jan. 16 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Fast food is not the cause of the childhood obesity epidemic, says a new study.
Fast food is not the cause of the childhood obesity epidemic, says a new study.Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The study showed that overweight children tend to follow an unhealthy diet even when they don't eat at McDonald's, Burger King or other fast-food chain.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina analyzed the diets of 4,466 American children (ages two to 18) and discovered that overweight children ate an unhealthy "Western" diet that was high in sugar and fat on the days they didn't eat fast food.

Meanwhile, healthy-weight children generally ate more vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and less sugar. In other words, overweight children are heavy because of what they eat on a daily basis, and not because they eat more fast food than their thin counterparts.

The study, which was led by nutrition professor Barry Popkin, concluded that blaming fast-food restaurants for the obesity epidemic is misguided.

"Where foods are obtained may not be as important as the nutritional quality of the foods consumed," said Popkin. "The effect of public-health efforts targeted at fast-food restaurants may also be overestimated, such that these efforts may be necessary, but not sufficient, to reduce child obesity if the remainder of the diet is not addressed."

The results aren't surprising, since numerous studies show it's possible to lose weight no matter what you eat as long as calorie intake is restricted. Earlier this month, John Cisna, an Iowa science teacher, lost 37 pounds in three months on an all-McDonald's diet.

The 6-foot-tall John shed 37 pounds eating only McDonald's food, dropping from 282 pounds to 243 pounds. He lost seven inches from his waist, and his cholesterol dropped from 249 to 170.

Cisna said his weight loss proves you can lose weight on practically any diet as long as you monitor your calories.

Cisna said he also disagreed with critics who blame fast-food restaurants for the obesity epidemic, saying health is a personal — not corporate — responsibility. "We all have choices," he said. "It's our choices that make us fat, not McDonald's."

Cisna has been slammed by nutritionists like Joy Bauer, who say he may have lost weight, but an all fast-food diet is just not healthy. Bauer, author of Your Inner Skinny: Four Steps to Thin Forever, said the best diet for weight loss and health is one that's low in processed foods and features plenty of vegetables and fruits.

Meanwhile, Cisna is so thrilled with his weight loss he's continuing his all-McDonald's diet until mid-March.