A recent study found that watching food related television shows can cause viewers to gain weight, and not because of the cheetos consumed while watching.
The study, which was conducted at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, found that those who obtain their recipe information from cooking shows and often cook from scratch weighed an average of 11 pounds more and had higher body mass indexes (BMI) than those who watched food TV but didn’t cook.
So it is not watching TV that is unhealthy, but the cooking and eating habits the shows inspire.
"There's a pretty clear interaction between watching these types of shows and cooking less healthy foods," Lizzy Pope, a professor at the University of Vermont, and one of the study's authors, told the Washington Post. "People who watch cooking shows are more likely to have a higher BMI than any other group."
Since food television’s viewer demographic is mostly women, the research was conducted by surveying more than 500 women between the ages of 20 and 35 of varying heights and weights about where they find their recipes. Answers ranged from health websites, to YouTube videos, to magazines to blogs, to dietitians. The only answer that correlated with weight gain and a higher BMI, however, was cooking shows.
Dietitians encourage people to cook at home more often as opposed to going out to eat because it is generally healthier. But when your culinary inspirations are people like Paula Deen, Rachel Ray and Emeril – champions of comfort food – your homemade meal is not necessarily going to deliver a healthier option than if you were to eat at a restaurant.
"Just because you're cooking at home doesn't mean you're cooking healthy things and are going to lose weight," Pope said. "Restaurant quality meals really shouldn't be eaten every day."
This trend points to more than just the nation’s eating habits, but the fact that TV shows that glorify calorie-laden, mouth-watering dishes normalizes overindulgence at the dinner table.
“One reason for this phenomenon may be that often the recipes portrayed on TV are not the healthiest and allow you to feel like it’s OK to prepare and indulge in either less nutritious food or bigger portions,” study co-author Brian Wansink, Cornell University professor and director of the lab, told CBS.
The problem is made worse when the hosts of cooking shows are celebrities whom viewers look up to.
“Food show executives and hosts need to realize they are social role models and have a role to play in battling obesity and health care costs. They can be part of the solution or continue contributing to a major problem,” said Pope.