High obesity rates among low-income individuals are not solely the result of fast food, according to a study by the UC-Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Paul Leigh -- a health economist and lead author of the study -- and co-author DaeHwan Kim examined data from the mid-1990s and compared income levels with visits to fast-food and full-service restaurants.
Researchers found that visits to fast-food restaurants were highest at the $60,000 annual income level and then fell slightly.
Leigh said individuals from low-income households are not spending as much on fast food as those from lower-middle-income or middle-income households.
The study also found that individuals:
- With more education were more likely to visit full-service restaurants; and
- Who smoke were more likely to visit fast-food establishments.
According to the Bee, the report raises questions about some California cities' decisions to ban new fast-food restaurants in lower-income areas to combat obesity.
Health Experts Weigh In
Some health experts said that the study needs further analysis and noted that it does not separate the rural poor, who might not have access to fast-food restaurants, into their own category.
Judith Stern -- a nutrition professor at UC-Davis and an expert on obesity -- acknowledged that low-income working individuals face challenges such as finding the time to cook more healthful foods. However, she said that high-quality foods need to be made available in low-income neighborhoods (Alcalá, Sacramento Bee, 10/28).