In 1978, Federal Study Concludes Obese People Eat More Than Non-Obese

By Adam Andrzejewski for RealClearPolitics

A “groundbreaking study” in 1978 found that obese people ate more food than non-obese people. For its “obvious conclusions,” Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wisc.) From Wisconsin, the National Institute of Mental Health was awarded the Golden Fleece for its wasteful and absurd spending in June 1978.

This study looked at the proportion of obese people eating in restaurants that offered them the option to order from a menu or eat out on a buffet.

Researchers found that more people ate at the buffet than on the menu. “This was a pedestrian study with all the trappings of research, which reached amazingly obvious conclusions,” Proxmire said then.

About 1,718 patrons were observed in four restaurants of different ethnic origin — Italian, Irish, American, and Danish — where one could either order from a menu or visit a buffet. Two observers trained to use silhouettes to identify people with a weight of 30 percent or greater than the desired, rated customers as obese and non-obese.

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Research showed that customers who were offered a buffet rather than traditional meal service made up an even larger percentage of obese individuals. While the exact cost couldn’t be calculated, the researcher estimated it at a few hundred dollars.

Proxmire pointed out that the researcher enjoyed a good reputation, received no salary and worked for comparatively low amounts than professional grant-getters.

But in the end, Proxmire’s staff estimated the study cost $2,500 to $3,000 — at most $12,621 in 2021 dollars. Although it may seem small compared to the amount the government spends on average, this is still $12,000 less than what was needed for the study’s conclusions.

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