Too much

Kevin Lewis

January 14, 2018

Association Between Sustained Poverty and Changes in Body Mass Index From 1990 to 2015: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study
Tali Elfassy et al.
American Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming

We sought to determine whether sustained poverty is associated with change in body mass index (BMI) among 4,762 black and white adults of the Coronary Artery Risk Development In Young Adults study. Household income in the past year and current BMI were measured at seven visits between 1990 and 2015. Sustained poverty was the proportion of visits during which household income was below 200% of the federal poverty level (range, 0%–100%). Sustained poverty and BMI were time-updated. Mean age in 1990 was 30 years. In adjusted linear mixed effects models, every 10% increase in sustained poverty was significantly associated with faster BMI growth in white men (+0.004 kg/m2/year, 95% CI: 0.001, 0.008) and white women (+0.003 kg/m2/year, 95% CI: 0.000, 0.006), and slower BMI growth in black men (−0.008 kg/m2/year, 95% CI: −0.010, −0.005) and black women (−0.003 kg/m2/year, 95% CI: −0.006, 0.000). In other words, being always vs. never in poverty from 1990 to 2015 was predicted to result in greater BMI gain by 1.00 kg/m2 and 0.75 kg/m2 among white men and women and less BMI gain by 2.0 kg/m2 and 0.75 kg/m2 among black men and women, respectively. Sustained poverty was a predictor of changes in BMI with differential associations by race.

Personal relative deprivation increases self-selected portion sizes and food intake
A.Y. Sim et al.
Appetite, February 2018, Pages 268-274

Cues and experiences of the deprivation of financial/material resources have been associated with increased caloric intake and risk for overweight/obesity. Given that social comparisons may serve as a powerful reference for the adequacy of one's standing and resources, the present research tested whether subjective feelings of personal relative deprivation (PRD) or “losing out” to others stimulates calorie selection and intake. Study 1 demonstrated that self-reported chronic experiences of PRD positively predicted calories selected for a portion and consumed during an ad-libitum meal. Study 2 revealed that experimentally-induced PRD resulted in an increase in the amount of calories selected on a portion selection task and a stronger desire to consume the foods. Consequently, these findings demonstrate that chronic and acute subjective deprivation of non-food resources may contribute to socioeconomic gradients in obesity, and that perceived social inequality may have inherently obesogenic properties that promote excess calorie intake.

The Geography of Poverty and Nutrition: Food Deserts and Food Choices Across the United States
Hunt Allcott, Rebecca Diamond & Jean-Pierre Dubé
NBER Working Paper, December 2017

We study the causes of “nutritional inequality”: why the wealthy tend to eat more healthfully than the poor in the U.S. Using two event study designs exploiting entry of new supermarkets and households' moves to healthier neighborhoods, we reject that neighborhood environments have economically meaningful effects on healthy eating. Using a structural demand model, we find that exposing low-income households to the same food availability and prices experienced by high-income households would reduce nutritional inequality by only 9%, while the remaining 91% is driven by differences in demand. In turn, these income-related demand differences are partially explained by education, nutrition knowledge, and regional preferences. These findings contrast with discussions of nutritional inequality that emphasize supply-side issues such as food deserts.

The effect of images of Michelle Obama’s face on trick-or-treaters’ dietary choices: A randomized control trial
Peter Aronow, Dean Karlan & Lauren Pinson
PLoS ONE, January 2018

Setting: Economics professor’s front porch in New Haven, CT.

Participants: 1223 trick-or-treaters in New Haven over three years; on average, 8.5 years old and 53% male (among children whose gender was identifiable).

Intervention: Random assignment to the Michelle Obama side of the porch or the Comparison side of the porch.

Results: We estimate that viewing a photograph of Michelle Obama’s face relative to control conditions caused children to be 19% more likely to choose fruit over candy.

The Effect of Weight on Mental Health: New Evidence Using Genetic IVs
Barton Willage
Journal of Health Economics, January 2018, Pages 113-130

Average body mass index (BMI) and depression prevalence grew over the last several decades, increasing medical expenditures. There is a strong correlation between obesity and depression but limited evidence on the causal effect of weight on mental health. I use an index of genetic risk for high BMI as a source of exogenous variation in weight to provide novel evidence on the effect of weight on mental health. This is one of the first studies to use genetics as an instrument for BMI and to examine the causal relationship between weight and depression. Results are mixed; I find a meaningful and significant effect of weight on suicidal ideation but no effects on counselling and an index of depression. The effect on suicidal ideation is concentrated in white females. From respondent and interviewer opinions of respondent attractiveness, social stigma is a mechanism through which weight affects mental health for white women.

The Effects of Banning Advertising in Junk Food Markets
Pierre Dubois, Rachel Griffith & Martin O’Connell
Review of Economic Studies, January 2018, Pages 396–436

There are growing calls to restrict advertising of junk foods. Whether such a move will improve diet quality will depend on how advertising shifts consumer demands and how firms respond. We study an important and typical junk food market — the potato chips market. We exploit consumer level exposure to adverts to estimate demand, allowing advertising to potentially shift the weight consumers place on product healthiness, tilt demand curves, have dynamic effects and spillover effects across brands. We simulate the impact of a ban and show that the potential health benefits are partially offset by firms lowering prices and by consumer switching to other junk foods.

Self-affirmation improves self-control over snacking among participants low in eating self-efficacy
Susan Churchill et al.
Appetite, April 2018, Pages 264–268

Methods: At baseline, participants (N = 70) completed measures of dietary restraint and eating self-efficacy. In the main study, participants completed either a self-affirmation or a control task immediately before undertaking a joystick category judgment task that assessed self-control over snacking.

Results: Hierarchical multiple regression analysis revealed the predicted significant interaction between eating self-efficacy and self-affirmation, demonstrating that self-affirmation moderated the association between eating self-efficacy and self-control over snacking. Johnson-Neyman regions of significance confirmed that for participants low in eating self-efficacy the self-affirmation manipulation resulted in higher levels of self-control. Unexpectedly, however, for participants high in eating self-efficacy the self-affirmation manipulation was found to be associated with lower levels of self-control.

Challenging the “jolly fat” hypothesis among older adults: High body mass index predicts increases in depressive symptoms over a 5-year period
Peter Joseph Dearborn, Michael Robbins & Merrill Elias
Journal of Health Psychology, January 2018, Pages 48-58

Several investigators have observed lowered risk of depression among obese older adults, coining the “jolly fat” hypothesis. We examined this hypothesis using baseline and a 5-year follow-up body mass index, depressive symptoms, and covariates from 638 community-based older adults. High objectively measured body mass index and functional limitations predicted increased future depressive symptoms. However, symptoms did not predict future body mass index. Self-reported body mass index showed similar associations despite underestimating obesity prevalence. Results did not differ on the basis of gender. Results for this study, the first longitudinal reciprocal risk analysis between objectively measured body mass index and depressive symptoms among older adults, do not support the “jolly fat” hypothesis.

Race-Ethnicity, Union Status, and Change in Body Mass Index in Young Adulthood
Rhiannon Kroeger & Reanne Frank
Journal of Marriage and Family, forthcoming

This study used data from three waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and fixed effects regression to consider whether associations between change in union status and change in body mass index (BMI) were moderated by race-ethnicity. The results indicated that intimate unions were differentially associated with gains in BMI along racial-ethnic lines, especially for women. When compared with White women, marriage was associated with larger increases in BMI for Black, Hispanic, and Multiracial women, and cohabitation was associated with larger increases for Black and Hispanic women. In contrast, marriage and cohabitation were associated with less weight gain for Asian when compared with White women. Among men, racial-ethnic differences in the relationship between union status and BMI were similarly patterned but less pronounced. The results suggest that marital status further exacerbates racial-ethnic disparities in BMI from adolescence to young adulthood.

to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.