Health Concerns

Is Food Network Giving Everyone the Gout?

Could Ina's icredibly delicious mac and cheese be to blame?
Could Ina’s icredibly delicious mac and cheese be to blame? Photo: Patrick McMullan

Over on Fox News (we know, we know), they’re wondering if America’s constant exposure to food — via Food Network, Cooking Channel, Top Chef, Iron Chef, public television, and all the other food-related stuff on TV — is responsible for making everyone fat. According to the story, the deputy director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University says there’s never been a formal study on a possible link between the rise of food programming and obesity in America, but that it certainly seems like watching the kind of high-fat, meat-heavy dishes that are often shown on food TV can make people hungrier for exactly that kind of food. And funny thing! A rise in that kind of eating is something the New York Times reports is leading to an increase in cases of the gout!

That’s right: The “disease of kings,” so named because high-fat diets tend to cause it, has now struck the hoi polloi in large numbers. According to the Times, “More than six million adults in the United States have had it, and the numbers are rising steadily as the population ages, becomes heavier and is exposed to foods and other substances that can precipitate the disorder in susceptible people.”

Well, surely just watching shows about food isn’t going to make people fat, right? But Fox makes the admittedly valid point (we never thought we’d write that) that food TV is rarely focused on healthy eating: “With the exception a few shows like Jamie Oliver’s ‘Food Revolution,’ and ‘Dr. Oz,’ health foods rarely make appearances in the TV foodie movement.” It’s true! A quick glance at Food Network’s “top recipes” reveals “Mock” Mashed Potatoes that are made with cream cheese, a Three-Cheese Grilled Cheese (Cheddar, Swiss, and American), and Emeril’s Cayenne-Candied Bacon. Also, have you seen what some of their shows are called lately? Kid in a Candy Store, Last Cake Standing, and Meat & Potatoes are all on the schedule.

But hold on. The Times points to a study from The Journal of the American Medical Association that links “an increased intake of sugar-sweetened soda to a raised risk of gout in women.” There’s the obvious point that soda is advertised all over the place on Food Network, but it’s sort of a moot point since soda is advertised all over the place everywhere. Even the “America’s Classics Awards” handed out at last night’s James Beard Awards were “Presented by The Coca-Cola Company.” But still, there’s something to be said for the fact that Americans have become increasingly reliant on companies like PepsiCo for healthier snacks (as opposed to, say, just eating a carrot), a topic that’s covered in great detail in this week’s New Yorker.

So anyway. Maybe think twice before the next time you flip on that episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives! Or, at the very least do some sit-ups or something while you watch it.

Do Cooking Shows Make You Fat? [Fox News]
‘Disease of Kings’ Trickles Down to the Rest [NYT]
Snacks for a Fat Planet [NYer]

Is Food Network Giving Everyone the Gout?