Researchers at the University of Vermont, the University of Texas at Austin and Cornell University in Ithaca recently published their findings in the journal Appetite showing that women who watch cooking shows on television and recreate those recipes have a higher body mass index (BMI) in comparison with women who use recipes from other sources. The study is entitled “Viewers vs. Doers. The relationship between watching food television and BMI.”
The research team conducted a survey among 501 women aged between 20 and 35 years to assess the sources from which they obtain new recipe ideas and determine whether there is a link between recipe source, cooking from scratch and BMI. Information on the cooking habits, weight and height of each participant was collected.
Researchers found that women in this cohort had a mean BMI of 25.96 (values ranging from 16.34 – 57.58; individuals with a BMI of 30 or above are considered obese). A higher BMI was observed in women who obtained new recipe ideas from cooking shows and social media. Researchers did not find a correlation between BMI and any other recipe sources, such as in-person sources, online or printed. A significant association was found between watching cooking shows and cooking from scratch with a higher BMI. Interestingly, researchers found that women who watched the cooking shows without actually cooking did not exhibit a higher BMI.
“The message is clear. Food TV should be a viewing experience only, not a cooking experience,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Lizzy Pope in a news release. “If we had more food shows that used healthier recipes and showed how they can look good, taste good, be exciting and be social, which is what these shows illustrate, we could have an impact on public health. 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.”
Dr. Pope advises “If you’re watching food TV, just make sure you’re conscious of the ingredients you’re using if you bring the TV recipes into your home kitchen. It’s great to cook at home, but calories still count there, so adjustments might be needed if you’re cooking from food TV recipes frequently.”