Science Update - Lifestyles and Obesity

10 June 2007

Interview with

Chelsea Wald and Bob Hirshon

Bob -   This week for the Naked Scientists, we're going to tell you some of the things scientists are learning about what contributes to obesity.  I'm going to talk about kids, TV and junk food, but first Chelsea's here to tell us what love and marriage have to do with it.

Chelsea -   Couples who shack up risk seeing their weight ratchet up.  That's according to epidemiologist Penny Gordon-Larsen and student Natalie The of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  They found that couples who are married or just living together are more likely to have one or both partners be obese than couples who are just dating.  The says there may be something about living together that promotes obesity; like more time demands, or more food around.  Or people might just pick partners who share their tendencies.

Natalie The (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) -   So maybe if I'm sedentary, I also like spending time with someone who wants to watch TV or watch movies as opposed to someone who wants to go out and run.

Chelsea -   Whatever the reason, the finding suggests that people who want to make lifestyle changes would do well to convince their partners to join them.

Bob -   Thanks, Chelsea.  On average, kids eat nearly twice as much after seeing junk food ads on TV, than they do after watching ads for non-food items.  That's the result of a new study at the University of Liverpool.  Psychologist Jason Halford says the effect was strongest in overweight and obese children.  Those kids not only increased their eating by higher percentages, but also gravitated more toward high-fat snacks after watching the food commercials.

Jason Halford (University of Liverpool) -   And those brands were not advertised.  Although the adverts were for branded foods, the foods we served them were not linked to the brand in any way.  So it was a beyond-brand effect, if you see what I mean.

Bob -   Halford notes that TV watching is directly related to childhood weight gain, and suggests the barrage of food ads may be partly responsible.

Chelsea -   Thanks, Bob. Next time, we'll talk about some cool, self-planting seeds.  Until then, I'm Chelsea Wald...

Bob -   and I'm Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, The Science Society.  Back to you, Naked Scientists!

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