Eating Out and Weight Gain

This study aimed at comparing the body mass index (BMI) and weight gain of those eating at restaurants with those who ate at their workplace. The study population comprised 24,310 randomly selected individuals from more than 10 European countries. The subjects were asked to recall their place of food consumption over a 24-hour period. It was found that food intake in restaurants was more prevalent in southern Europe, whereas the incidence of food intake at the workplace was higher in northern Europe. Among men, higher BMI was associated with eating at restaurants. However, there was no such association when eating at the workplace in both the genders.

Obesity is an important health issue worldwide. The prevalence of obesity is on the rise and current incidence rates are much higher than it was in the 1970s. The occurrence of obesity is related to various factors such as genes, environmental issues, culture and behavior. Eating at places such as restaurants, besides one’s home, has a major influence on inducing obesity. Although several studies have been performed on obesity and eating out, results in most have been inconsistent, probably because of the varied study objectives. In this study, more than 24,000 participants were included. The study focused on the correlation between eating out at restaurants and a corresponding weight gain, among people from more than 10 European countries.

* A full 24 hours of food consumption data was collected from 24,310 individuals who belonged to another large study group. The study population was from 10 different countries and data collection was performed in each country.
* The data included details such as the place of consumption, besides a listing of the food consumed, which helped calculate the average calories consumed.
* The weight and height of each individual was self-reported by the participants. Socioeconomic conditions and few habits were assessed, based on responses to questionnaires.

* The results showed that men tended to eat more at both restaurants and the workplace than women.
* It was found that 19.8 percent of the obese people with high BMIs had food at the restaurants; whereas, 16.7 percent ate at work.
* The BMI of men was significantly associated with eating at restaurants, especially in older men, and by extension weight gain.
* Intake of food at restaurants was more in southern Europe, than it was in northern Europe.
* No association between BMI and eating at restaurants was observed among women, as well as between BMI and eating at work in both genders.

Shortcomings/Next steps
The data collection from the study population was over a few years. The reporting of height and weight were, in most cases, by the participants themselves. This could have induced biased reporting. It is possible that a few overweight individuals did not disclose eating habits like snacking. A single 24-hour dietary recall is less likely to reflect dietary habits.

This study associated BMI with eating at restaurants and it was found that this relation was positive among men, particularly the aged people. The association in women was not as pronounced as it was in men. There was no evidence from the study, however, indicating that the food consumed at restaurants was associated with weight gain. The authors have said that there was higher incidence of obesity among the males, as compared with females. Men are less likely to be concerned with weight and healthy eating and could be more prone to excess intake of food. Thus, eating food at home can help reduce caloric intake and reduce the possibility of obesity.

For More Information:
Eating Out, Weight and Weight Gain. A Cross-Sectional and Prospective Analysis in the Context of the EPIC-PANACEA Study
Publication Journal: International Journal of Obesity, July 2010
By A. Naska; P. Orfanos; University of Athens, Greece
*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.


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