The British Medical Journal (BMJ) recently published two research articles related to fast food and obesity, including a study claiming that “individuals who are genetically predisposed to obesity may be more susceptible to the adverse effects of eating fried foods.” Qibin Qi, et al., “Fried food consumption, genetic risk, and body mass index: gene-diet interaction in three us cohort studies,” BMJ, March 2014. Relying on food consumption data from three cohort studies involving 37,000 men and women, researchers with the Harvard school of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical school also assigned participants “a genetic risk score based on 32 known genetic variants associated with BMI and obesity.”The results evidently showed that “eating fried food more than four times a week had twice the effect on BMI for those in the highest third of genetic risk as those in the lowest third.”

“This work provides formal proof of interaction between a combined genetic risk score and environment in obesity,” explains a concurrent editorial, which notes that the public health implications of the study are most applicable to those individuals with undiagnosed inherited forms of obesity. “There is a danger that issues surrounding blame and ‘personal responsibility’ in obesity might lead to lack of appropriate support for extremely obese people, who often have complex care needs… In summary, use of combined genetic risk scores in gene-environment interaction studies allows joint analysis of factors influencing obesity.”

Meanwhile, the second study has purportedly concluded that “exposure to takeaway food outlets in home, work, and commuting environments combined was associated with marginally higher consumption of takeaway food, greater body mass index, and greater odds of obesity.”Thomas Burgoine, et al., “Associa- tions between exposure to takeaway food outlets, takeaway food consumption, and body weight in Cambridgeshire, UK: population based, cross sectional study,” BMJ, March 2014. using the Fenland study of 5,442 working adults to estimate exposure to and consumption of foods such as hamburgers, pizza, fried food, and chips, university of Cambridge scientists reportedly “found evidence of an environmental contribution to the consumption of takeaway food and body mass index in all exposure domains studied,” observing the “strongest and most significant environmental associations when combining the exposures at home, at work and along commuting routes.”

As a Columbia university senior research scientist further editorialized, “Instead of restricting takeaway food, we should seek to transform it. Healthy takeaway food should not only be available, it should be as visible, tasty, and cheap as unhealthy food. Healthy eating should, in fact, be the default option… To affect public health, food policy must go beyond action that promotes some types of outlets and curbs others. In the food environment, what matters is the menu—what food is offered, at what price—not the venue.” See BMJ Editorial, March 19, 2014.