In general, people spend a lot of their time in their homes, which is why researchers from Ohio State University decided to look at how food storage and availability in the home is associated with obesity. The study included 50 obese individuals and 50 non-obese individuals. The findings showed that the obese participants kept more food visible throughout the house and generally ate less-healthy foods than non-obese participants. One interesting finding was the food was spread out more around the house–beyond the kitchen, likely making it more difficult to avoid eating. In addition, while participants in both groups spent about the same amount of money on food, the obese group spent more on fast food.
Lead study author Charles Emery, professor of psychology at Ohio State, noted that while multiple metabolic and genetic factors are known to contribute to obesity, the home is a logical place to consider in efforts to improve health. “For interventions, we should be thinking about the home as a place to start helping people establish what we know to be healthier habits and behaviors,” he said. For example, it’s been shown that if people leave healthier food choices in sight, such as a bowl of fruit in a highly visible place, they are more likely to eat it. Similarly, it would make sense that if someone leaves potato chips or sweets visible throughout the house, the likelihood of indulging in these items would increase.
The study also looked at psychological factors in relation to obesity and found that low-self-esteem related to one’s weight was a strong predictor of obesity. In the study, obese participants also reported more symptoms of depression.
“This study is very interesting because it shows how small adjustments in everyday life may have a potential effect on health, particularly weight. The subliminal effect of the sight of food is primitive,” said Dr. Christine Ren Fielding, bariatric surgeon and Professor of Surgery at NYU School of Medicine. While changing the way people keep food in their houses isn’t going to solve the obesity epidemic alone, it is an easy step that anyone can take to shift the focus within the house from less healthy foods, to those you’d want your family eating. Small changes can add up fast.