Why Do People Overeat at Fast Food Restaurants?

Forty percent of Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and that worrying trend appears likely to continue as long as fast food chains and other eateries are filled with bright lights and commotion. A recent study from Cornell University suggests that when people sit down to eat in softly-lit surroundings, accompanied by relaxing music, they will be in less of a hurry to chow down and will end up consuming smaller portions. To conduct their experiment, researchers revamped half of a Hardee's in Illinois and let diners eat in either the old side with the usual brightly-lit, hustle-bustle atmosphere or the new side, with soft music and less light. Those who chose the latter option took longer to eat but actually consumed less, and they were less likely to order dessert. They also gave higher ratings to the quality of their meals.

The high cost of fast food:

  • Fast food in America was a $6 billion USD industry in 1970; by 2020, that figure is expected to reach $223 billion USD.
  • Nine out of 10 American children eat at a McDonald's at least once a month; the obesity rate among U.S. kids is 18.5 percent.
  • For those thinking of choosing breakfast over lunch, be aware that hash browns aren't a healthier alternative to a Big Mac. They actually contain more fat and calories, proportionally.
More Info: Cornell Food & Brand Lab

Discussion Comments


Eating more than a person burns up is the sole reason for obesity. It's not the food but the quantity of it.

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