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, gave the National Institute of Mental Health a Golden Fleece award for wasteful and nonsensical spending in June 1978.
The study compared the amount of food obese and non-obese people ate in restaurants where they had a choice between ordering from a menu and going to a buffet.
Unsurprisingly, researchers found that far more food was eaten at the buffet than from 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. The customers were rated as obese or non-obese by two observers who had been trained on silhouettes and to recognize people who were about 30 percent or more over desirable weight.
The researchers found that obese people made up a far higher percentage of the customers in restaurants when a buffet was offered than those with traditional menu service. While the exact cost couldn’t be calculated, the researcher estimated it at a few hundred dollars.
Proxmire noted that the researcher had a very good reputation in his field, collected no salary, and had generally worked for relatively modest amounts compared with the 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. That may not sound like much relative to how much the government usually spends, but it is $12,000 more than was necessary arrive at the conclusions that the study did.
Syndicated with permission from Real Clear Wire.
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