SAN FRANCISCO, May 13 (Xinhua) -- A new nationwide study of young baby boomers in the United States contradicts the popular belief that fast-food consumption is concentrated among the poor.
Instead, results showed that middle-income Americans were most likely to eat fast food, and the richest people were only slightly less likely to report fast food consumption, although the differences from other groups was relatively small.
"It's not mostly poor people eating fast food in America," said Jay Zagorsky, research scientist at the Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research and co-author of the study already published online and scheduled to appear in the journal Economics and Human Biology.
The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which has questioned the same group of randomly selected Americans since 1979.
In the study, Zagorsky and Patricia Smith of the University of Michigan-Dearborn used data from about 8,000 people who were asked about their fast-food consumption in the 2008, 2010 and 2012 surveys.
Participants, who were in their 40s and 50s at the time of the surveys, were asked how many times in the past seven days they had eaten "food from a fast-food restaurant such as McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut or Taco Bell."
Overall, 79 percent of respondents ate fast food at least once and 23 percent ate three or more meals during any one of the weeks recorded in the study.
And while there were some slight differences in how wealth and income were related to fast-food consumption, Zagorsky said, the results were similar.
The lowest 10 percent in terms of income ate about 3.6 fast-food meals during the three weeks of the survey, compared to about 4.2 meals for middle-income people and three meals for the richest 10 percent of participants.
Zagorsky said he hopes the results of this study can help guide policymakers when they come up with laws regarding how to prevent obesity or guide nutritional choices for Americans.
"If government wants to get involved in regulating nutrition and food choices, it should be based on facts. This study helps reject the myth that poor people eat more fast food than others and may need special protection," he said in a news release from the Ohio State University.