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Viewers vs. Doers. The Relationship Between Watching Food Television and BMI

Pope, Lizzy, Lara Latimer, and Brian Wansink (2015). Viewers vs. Doers. The relationship between watching food television and BMIAppetite, 90, 131-135. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.02.035.

Members of a family who influence the food selection and preparation for a household,  referred to ‘nutritional gatekeepers,’ play a large role in deciding what type of food and eating habits are permitted and supported within the family. Subsequent studies support efforts to better understand how and where these individuals obtain their information, as a pathway to influence change in food choice and eating habits to promote healthier lifestyles for adults and children. This study contributes to this body of information by investigating how cooking shows and social media outlets play a role in food information collection. This study also examines if the source of information and cooking behaviors are related to BMI. 

Data was collected from 501 females, ages 20-35, from a national panel survey in 2012. Participating women were asked a series of questions pertaining to their cooking habits and information sources used, in addition to information about their weight and height used to calculate BMI. Linear regression analysis was used to examine possible associations between information source, cooking from scratch (if they did it, or not), and BMI. Participants were categorized as either “doers”, those who watch cooking shows and do cook from scratch, or “viewers”, those who watch cooking shows but do not cook from scratch.

The results from completed regressions found no significant influence of watching cooking shows and cooking from scratch on BMI when examined independently. However, “viewers” had a mean BMI of 25.63 while “doers” had a higher mean BMI of 27.49. An additional analysis of those who indicated using social media as a source of information also revealed a positive significant influence on BMI when combined with cooking from scratch. Obtaining information pertaining to food from print and in-person sources did not significantly influence BMI.

The results of this study indicate that cooking shows and social media sites, as sources of information about food and health are associated with higher BMI among women who cook from scratch. This information is beneficial to those working with clients and patients to promote healthy living as it contributes to a greater overall understanding of the interaction between information sources and lifestyle choices. Additionally, this information is beneficial to those hosting or overseeing cooking shows and social media outlets, as shows and social media could be used as an effective tools in promoting healthier food options and lifestyle choices.