Newspapers can predict your country’s obesity levels

New York, July 21 (IANS) What you are reading now can actually reveal whether your country will be skinnier or fatter in three years, research shows.

After analysing 50 years of all the food words mentioned in major newspapers like the New York Times and London Times, researchers predict that the food words trending today in 2015 will predict a country’s obesity level in 2018.

“The more sweet snacks are mentioned and the fewer fruits and vegetables that are mentioned in your newspaper, the fatter your country’s population is going to be in three years,” said lead study author Brennan Davis, associate professor of marketing from California State University at San Luis Obispo.

“But the less often they are mentioned and the more vegetables are mentioned, the skinnier the public will be,” added Davis who analysed trends from the past 50 years.

This study analysed all of the different foods mentioned in stories in the New York Times and London Times and statistically correlated them with each country’s annual body mass index (BMI).

While the number of mentions of sweet snacks were related to higher obesity levels three years later, the number of salty snack mentions were unrelated.

The number of vegetable and fruit mentions were related to lower levels of obesity three years later.

“Newspapers are basically crystal balls for obesity,” said study co-author Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab that funded the study.

“This is consistent with earlier research showing that positive messages — ‘Eat more vegetables and you’ll lose weight,’–resonate better with the general public than negative messages, such as ‘eat fewer cookies,'” Wansink said.

The findings provide public health officials and epidemiologists with new tools to quickly assess the effectiveness of current obesity interventions.

“If we wish to estimate obesity rates in three years, the best indicator will be what is mentioned in the paper today,” the authors said in the study published in the journal BMC Public Health.

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