Not all indulgent snacks contribute equally to obesity and not all strategies to reduce their consumption are effective

“Stratospheric obesity rates in the United States are driving policies that target high-calories, high sugar foods and beverages,”​ but “all indulgent and ‘junk foods’ are not created equal, and therefore, should not be lumped together for policy-decision purposes,”​ researchers at Georgetown and Tufts University argue in a report​ published last week by the Business for Impact at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and made possible with funding from the National Confectioners Association.

As such, they argue, a one-size fits all approach to discouraging consumption of junk food, such as by taxing at a higher-rate products with a certain percentage of sugar, sodium or saturated fat or requiring them to bare stop sign labelling or even outright banning their sale will not help lower obesity rates.

They add a more effective approach is to target the unhealthy products most often purchased or consumed disproportionately by those with obesity – which, according to the research, means soda, sweet baked goods, and savory snacks – not, as previously believed, chocolate and candy.

By examining not just the effect of individual product categories on consumption but also the amount of sugar and calories consumed by category, the frequency and amount of the products consumed by different shoppers and the connection of categories to consumers with obesity they found there was no statistically significant differences in purchases of chocolate and non-chocolate candy between consumers with a healthy weight and those who are obese.

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