It might be time to turn off the Food Network: A new study in Appetite suggests TV cooking shows actually make viewers fat. Cornell University researchers surveyed 501 random women between 20 and 35 about their cooking habits, then took height and weight measurements to discover each participant's body mass index, NPR reports. What they found: Women "who watched cooking shows and cooked frequently from scratch," also known as the "doers," weighed an average of 164 pounds. The "viewers," women who watched the shows but didn't usually cook the recipes, weighed an average of 153 pounds—or 11 pounds lighter. "Being a doer may put you at risk for packing on extra pounds" and "for having a higher BMI," study author Lizzy Pope explains. Those who used social media, including Pinterest, to find recipes were also linked to a higher BMI, Smithsonian reports.
Other women said dieticians, magazines, cooking blogs, newspapers, health websites, and YouTube influenced their cooking habits, but they weren't associated with a higher BMI, the Washington Post reports. Previous research found the more time women cooked at home, the higher their chance of developing symptoms of metabolic syndrome. But Pope warns that her study and others don't suggest you should just eat out instead: The key is finding healthy recipes, she says, and cooking show recipes are "not necessarily portraying healthy recipes." In fact, they lead viewers to assume that regularly cooking with fatty foods, like butter, is normal. "Restaurant-quality meals really shouldn't be eaten every day," Pope says. "Food show executives and hosts need to realize they are social role models and have a role to play in battling obesity and health care costs." (Read a case for why you should give up three meals a day.)