Causal beliefs about obesity and associated health behaviors: Results from a population-based survey

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Abstract

Background: Several genetic variants are associated with obesity risk. Promoting the notion of genes as a cause for obesity may increase genetically deterministic beliefs and decrease motivation to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors. Little is known about whether causal beliefs about obesity are associated with lifestyle behaviors. Study objectives were as follows: 1) to document the prevalence of various causal beliefs about obesity (i.e., genes versus lifestyle behaviors), and 2) to determine the association between obesity causal beliefs and self-reported dietary and physical activity behaviors.Methods: The study data were drawn from the 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS). A total of 3,534 individuals were included in the present study.Results: Overall, 72% of respondents endorsed the belief that lifestyle behaviors have 'a lot' to do with causing obesity, whereas 19% indicated that inheritance has 'a lot' to do with causing obesity. Multinomial logistic regression analyses indicated that the belief that obesity is inherited was associated with lower reported levels of physical activity (OR = 0.87, 95% CI: 0.77-0.99) and fruit and vegetable consumption (OR = 0.87, 95% CI: 0.76-0.99). In contrast, the belief that obesity is caused by lifestyle behaviors was associated with greater reported levels of physical activity (OR = 1.29, 95% CI: 1.03-1.62), but was not associated with fruit and vegetable intake (OR = 1.07, 95% CI: 0.90-1.28).Conclusions: Causal beliefs about obesity are associated with some lifestyle behaviors. Additional research is needed to determine whether promoting awareness of the genetic determinants of obesity will decrease the extent to which individuals will engage in the lifestyle behaviors essential to healthy weight management. © 2010 Wang and Coups; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

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Wang, C., & Coups, E. J. (2010). Causal beliefs about obesity and associated health behaviors: Results from a population-based survey. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 7. https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-7-19

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