Restaurants Cause Obesity! (Overeating Has Nothing to Do With It)

Kim Conte

mcdonald'sIt's a bad week for the restaurant industry -- the most recently identified enemy in America's war against obesity.

First, a new commercial (by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine or PCRM) takes aim at McDonald's with its depiction of a man lying dead in a mortuary and clutching a half-eaten hamburger. The voice-over advises:

"High cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attacks. Tonight, make it vegetarian."

Meanwhile, the (obviously manipulated) well-known McDonald's slogan rolls across the screen.

So, there you have it, folks: Overeating doesn't cause heart disease and other fatal, obesity-related health conditions; rather, restaurants do.

The commercial comes only a day after First Lady Michelle Obama -- speaking to the National Restaurant Association’s board of directors -- called upon restaurants to help end childhood obesity. She too thinks restaurants are largely responsible for the epidemic:

" a mom, I know it is my responsibility and no one else’s to raise my kids ... We have to ask ourselves, what does it mean when so many parents are finding their best efforts undermined by an avalanche of advertisements aimed at our kids."

To remedy the situation, the First Lady asked restaurateurs to limit unhealthy foods on their menus and offer more healthy options -- particularly for children. Specifically she's advocating for restaurants to:

  • Substitute wheat pasta for white pasta.
  • Cut the amount of butter or cream, or use 1 percent or skim milk.
  • Make healthy sides like apple slices and carrot sticks the default choice on menus (instead of fries).

I agree that restaurants do have a responsibility to help in the effort to reduce obesity rates and get Americans eating healthier -- after all, one-third of all meals today are eaten outside the home. But this call to arms -- whether it's coming from Obama or the PCRM -- needs to be in tandem with public education on how people also share in the responsibility of making healthy food choices for themselves and their families.

But restaurants aren't the only ones that have to make to make changes when we're talking about how to improve our diets overall.

Do you think this commercial is unfair? Are restaurants like McDonald's are responsible for America's obesity epidemic?

Read More