Association of Chain Restaurant Advertising Spending with Obesity in US Adults

Sara N. Bleich, Mark J. Soto, Jesse C. Jones-Smith, Julia A. Wolfson, Marian P. Jarlenski, Caroline G. Dunn, Johannah M. Frelier, Bradley J. Herring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Importance: Restaurants spend billions of dollars on marketing. However, little is known about the association between restaurant marketing and obesity risk in adults. Objective: To examine associations between changes in per capita county-level restaurant advertising spending over time and changes in objectively measured body mass index (BMI) for adult patients. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study used regression models with county fixed effects to examine associations between changes in per capita county-level (370 counties across 44 states) restaurant advertising spending over time with changes in objectively measured body mass index (BMI) for US adult patients from 2013 to 2016. Different media types and restaurant types were analyzed together and separately. The cohort was derived from deidentified patient data obtained from athenahealth. The final analytic sample included 5987213 patients, and the analysis was conducted from March 2018 to November 2019. Exposure: Per capita county-level chain restaurant advertising spending. Main Outcomes and Measures: Individual-level mean BMI during the quarter. Results: The included individuals were generally older (37.1% older than 60 years), female (56.8%), and commercially insured (53.5%). For the full population of 29285920 person-quarters, there was no association between changes in all restaurant advertising per capita (all media types, all restaurants) and changes in BMI. However, restaurant advertising spending was positively associated with weight gain for patients in low-income counties but not in high-income counties. A $1 increase in quarterly advertising per capita across all media and restaurant types was associated with a 0.053-unit increase in BMI (95% CI, 0.001-0.102) for patients in low-income counties, corresponding to a 0.12% decrease in BMI at the 10th percentile of changes in county advertising spending vs a 0.12% increase in BMI at the 90th percentile. Conclusions and Relevance: The results of this study suggest that restaurant advertising is associated with modest weight gain among adult patients in low-income counties. To date, there has been no public policy action or private sector action to limit adult exposure to unhealthy restaurant advertising. Efforts to decrease restaurant advertising in low-income communities should be intensified and rigorously evaluated to understand their potential for increasing health equity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019519
JournalJAMA Network Open
Volume3
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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