Ads And Childhood Obesity

17 June 2012, 01:00 | Posted under by Tatiana

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Visualize this: kids across America are seated in front of the TV viewing food commercials at the rate of more than five per hour. Most of those commercials are for sugary foods, fast food, and other high-calorie items, all of which can contribute to childhood obesity.
Childhood obesity and excessive weight is a national problem. The National Center for Health Statistics show that 17 percent of children are overweight. Further, overweight children quite often turn into overweight adults. They have an greater risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and certain cancers, among other ailments and diseases. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), part of the problem may be that American society has become “obesogenic,”. This is characterized by situations and environments that boost increased consumption of food, unhealthful foods, and a sedentary lifestyle.
According to researchers at the University of California-Davis, who evaluated the types of food commercials watched by kids who watch English- and Spanish-language TV programs. During high viewing times for kids (Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons). Recordings were made of programs on twelve networks, which included children’s cable channels, networks that attract older youths, mainstream English-language channels, and the two highest rated Spanish language channels.
A total of 5,724 commercials were recorded. Of these, 1,162 were food-related. Kids were exposed to an average of 5.2 food related commercials per hour. Of these commercials, more than 70 percent were for unhealthful items (foods with increased sugar and/or increased fat content), which contribute to childhood obesity. Thirty-four percent of the advertisements were for fast-food restaurants and convenience foods.
The greatest share of food-related ads appeared on children’s networks, where the commercials were mostly for sugary cereals and sweets, high-fat foods, fast-food restaurant fare, and snacks. Likened with TV for a generalized audience, children’s networks exposed its viewers to 76 percent more food advertisements per hour than the other networks. Children who watch TV on a children’s network during Saturday morning from 7 to 10 AM observe approximately one food commercial every eight minutes.
Older kids continue to be exposed to unhealthful food ads. The researchers viewed programming such as the music videos offered by BET and MTV. They reported that 80 percent of the MTV food ads were for fast food restaurants, sugary beverages, and sweets.
The publishers of the study, which was published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, noted that “Study after study has documented the adverse health effects of food advertising targeting children and adolescents.” They went on to say that “School- and family-based programs that have attempted to reduce children’s media use have shown promise.” Yet because kids are shown food ads by other media, especially the Internet, the authors propose the introduction of “nutrition-focused media literary interventions” to help young people understand the economic motives of food advertisers and the techniques the industry uses to increase demand for their products. These efforts, along with others, may help stem the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.