It's Not Just the Food in Fast-Food Restaurants That Makes You Fat

NEW YORK (MainStreet) —It’s not exactly a shock to learn Americans are, to put it delicately, packing on a few pounds. A walk through any mall, a visit to Disney World or a trip to the beach can easily confirm that America really has become the land of plenty … of calories.

More scientifically, you can turn to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention for a study formally measures consumer calorie intake.

In its most recent look at the issue of U.S. citizens and weight-health, the CDC notes that almost 38% of Americans are officially obese, as well as 16.9% of U.S. children. That is 78 million adults and 12.5 million kids carrying extra pounds that can be hazardous to their health.

There is no shortage of diets and workout regimes that can help Americans shed a few pounds.

But one unique idea comes from a Cornell University study released this week.

The study says one way Americans can curb weight gain is to favor restaurants – especially fast-food restaurants – that offer “softer lighting” and “softer music.”

Lead researcher Brian Wansink, a marketing professor at Cornell, says softer lighting not only reduces calorie intake, it makes your food taste better, too.

“When we did a makeover of a fast-food restaurant, we found that softer music and lighting led diners to eat 175 fewer calories and enjoy it more,” Wansink says.

His numbers seem to bear that sentiment out. The study says that “softening the lighting and the music” in a fast-food restaurant doesn’t change what diners choose from the menu, but it does trigger them eating less, by 18%, according to Wansink – from an average of 949 calories to 775 calories.

A cherry on top: Diners also rated the meal as “more enjoyable”.

The conventional wisdom held that dining under softer lights and with more mellow music would cause diners to eat more, not less, Wansink says, but “these results suggest that a more relaxed environment increases satisfaction and decreases consumption. This is important information for fast-food restaurants, which are often accused of contributing to obesity.

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