Study suggests people’s beliefs about causes of obesity influence their eating habits, weight.

People’s views about what causes obesity may influence both their eating habits and their weight, new research shows.

The finding suggests that public health campaigns may need to factor that into the equation to be effective, the study authors noted.

To examine the issue, the researchers conducted a series of surveys across five countries on three continents. Published recently in the journal Psychological Science, the study found people in Korea, the United States and France all held similar beliefs that either poor diet or lack of exercise was the leading cause of obesity.

And those who linked obesity to unhealthy eating habits had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than those who blamed lack of physical activity. BMI is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight.

“There was a clear demarcation,” study author Brent McFerran, of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, said in a news release from the Association for Psychological Science. “Some people overwhelmingly implicated poor diet, and a roughly equal number implicated lack of exercise. Genetics, to our surprise, was a far distant third.”

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