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Turn Off The "Obesity Tube" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Thursday, 10 April 2008 10:30

Once again, we see the reality of the message that TV adds are sending to our children. And, it is not good.

In 2005, a review by the Institute of Medicine concluded that food marketing influence children's food choices, preferences, consumption and health. The Federal Trade Commission and the US Department of Health and Human Services have said that food markets can play an important role in improving children's diets and helping solve the obesity problem.

A study in the journal Pediatrics found that only 2% of children (ages 2 to 19) eat a diet that meets the conservative USDA guidelines. Most children already consume more fat, saturated fat, sodium and added sugars and less fruits, vegetables and whole grains than recommended.

While many food companies state publicly that they are concerned with the obesity epidemic and working hard to find solutions, a study released this week paints a different picture. Several earlier studies between 1988 and 1999, found that about half of the 5,500 food advertisements children see per year are for fast food and/or junk foods

The study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, looked at 27.5 hours of programming on the major broadcast and cable networks during May 2005. The hours taped were from 7:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Saturday mornings during shows aimed at preschool and elementary school-aged children. Of all the advertisements during the recorded times, 49% were for food.

The most advertised food category was ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and cereal bars, followed by restaurants, then snack foods and candy. The specific products advertised most frequently were McDonald's restaurants, Burger King Restaurants, and Skittle Smoothie Mix candy (does that count as a smoothie?). The most frequent cereals advertised were Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Kellogg’s Apple Jacks, Kellogg’s Corn Pops, and Cap'n Crunch Berries. The three most common restaurants were McDonald's, Burger King and Check E. Cheese’s.

When looking at the nutritional content of the food advertised, 91% of the foods advertised were high in fat, added sugars, added sodium, or low in nutrients. More than half of the foods advertised exceeded the sugar guidelines. Most of the nutrients found in any of the advertised foods that met the recommended guidelines were there only because they were added through fortification.

In other words, over 90% of the food advertised during prime time Saturday morning television to our children, were junk foods!

It is not food, but some food like products make from refined flours, refined sugars and fats, with a little sprinkle of added nutrients. This is an atrocity.

And, worst of all, this is almost double the amount found by several earlier studies over 10 years ago. So, despite all the pleas from health organizations for improvements, and all the claims from these companies that they are "working on it, " this situation is not getting any better, it is getting worse. Much worse.

Don't be fooled.

Now, why has this story not made all of the major headlines and news stories?  This should be front page news and the lead in story this week on all media outlets!

What can you do?

Monitor how much television your children watch, if any, and what the content is.

Instead of watching the obesity tube, especially on Saturday mornings, take your children out for a walk, a bicycle ride, or to play in the park. Get them involved in sports or other hobbies. Keep them active and participate in activities with them. Teach them what healthy food really is, and where it comes from especially in gardening and growing your own food. Get them involved in shopping and reading labels and if you can, teach them my guidelines.  They are simple and child friendly. And, most of all, stop supporting the production and marketing of these junk foods by not spending a dime (or even a penny) on them.

It's your choice.

Choose wisely my friends.


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