Or so says Dr Ricardo Costa, senior lecturer in nannying fussbucketry at the University of Coventry (do these places spring up overnight - until today I didn't know Coventry had a University).
The study, published in the Food and Public Health journal, found that many celebrity chef recipes in cookbooks contained “undesirable levels” of saturated fatty acids (SFA), sugars and salt which are linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Note the detail here and the words - "undesirable", "linked to" aren't really any justification for the headline: TV Chefs are "adding to obesity" and are typical New Puritan weasel words. After all I don't need any evidence at all to "link" something to something else and this is precisely what Dr Costa has done. The research simply runs a load of recipes from celebrity chefs through a computer model and publishes the results:
Food preparation recipes (n=904), covering a wide range of meal types, from 26 dominant British based Celebrity Chefs were randomly sampled from literature and web sources. Recipes were blindly analysed through dietary analysis software by three trained dietetic researchers (CV 6.9%). The nutritional value of each recipe was compared against national healthy eating benchmark guidelines using a healthy eating index (HEI).
Nothing in the research suggests that Jamie, Nigella and Delia are making us all obese with their glorious culinary temptations. The authors however make a huge leap from these temptations to suggest that these wicked TV chefs are affecting our food preparation habits (again without any evidence) and that they are, as a result:
...a likely hidden contributing factor to Britain’s obesity epidemic and its associated public health issues.
Again we see the loaded words of public health - using epidemic to describe rising rates of obesity is bad in a newspaper article but, in a scientific paper such misuse is inexcusable. Even if obesity rates are rising (and they aren't) it will never be an epidemic because getting fat isn't contagious - I won't catch obesity off you, not even a little bit. And "hidden contributing factor", which I assume means "we haven't got any evidence to support this statement so we'll say it's hidden".
The profile of obesity suggests that Dr Costa and his colleagues are talking nonsense. Obesity is disproportionately an issue for women from lower social classes and middle-aged men. At a guess these aren't the front of the house when Jamie scooters round Italy or the Hairy Bikers talk about vegetables. I may be wrong, of course, but my contention has precisely the same amount of scientific value as Dr Costa's - essentially none.
All this is a reminder that much of 'dietetics' is simply fancy calorie counting based on a set of willfully misrepresented half-truths about salt, sugar and fat. Obesity is a consequence of eating too much and exercising too little and has precisely nothing at all to do with the recipes presented by Lorraine or Antonio on our tellies.