Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Childhood Obesity: Caused By Junk Food Ads Or Parental Irresponsibility?

This Washington Post story reports on a new position paper released by the Institute of Medicine today that declares childhood obesity and diabetes have grown significantly as a result of junk food advertising on television.

The report entitled "Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?" in essence blames the junk food industry for enticing children with food and beverage products that are high in calories, sugar, salt, fat and carbohydrates with little if any nutritional benefits.

As part of their recommendation to the U.S. Congress, the Institute of Medicine concluded in their report that food and beverage companies need to begin creating healthier products for consumers and to shift their advertising dollars to promote these better choices to young influential consumers.

So what is going to happen if they don't?

The report believes Congress should force these companies to change their advertising practices to prevent junk food from being so heavily advertised and that incentives such as tax breaks should be given to companies who adhere to their goal of providing and promoting healthy products.

Can you believe this is actually being proposed in the United States of America? While I am a strong supporter of individuals reducing the amount of junk food they consume to help them lose weight and get healthy, I am not at all in favor of the government telling a business what it can and cannot do. That's what the market forces are in place to do.

If there is enough of a public backlash on these companies to stop advertising their Twinkies, Coca-Cola, and M&M's, then the consumer will decide to move their dollars elsewhere. However, if the buying public does not see a problem with these products being advertised on television, then why should these companies adjust their marketing strategy? The bottom line is that they shouldn't, no matter how revolting I may think their product is.

Rather than pointing fingers at advertisers of junk food for making their products so appealing to kids (isn't that the point of ANY good and effective ad campaign?!), why don't we hold parents accountable for their role in this? The last time I checked most kids don't hold jobs and make money like mom and dad do. Aren't parents acting irresponsibly with the nutritional choices of their children when they purchase them junk foods? Why are parents being let off the hook on this one?

The report notes that "early life environment is an important determinant of obesity later in life."

I could not agree more. But that is further evidence that parents need to step up as the leaders in their household and make healthy eating a priority by serving as an example for their children to follow. If Dad is sitting on the couch eating a whole bag of Doritos and mom is scarfing down chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, then why should Junior do any different?

Try replacing that junk food with healthier options such as fruits, vegetables, and other low-carb snacks and go on a bike ride together as a family. Cultivating a healthier lifestyle begins with the parents and quickly filters down to the children.

The sense of urgency about this issue comes at a time when childhood obesity has grown three-fold since 1965 and Type 2 diabetes has doubled since 1995.

According to the Institute of Medicine report, there have been a series of "dietary patterns" which put our children's "health at risk," including poor eating choices being actively promoted in mainstream marketing. To reverse this trend, the report nots that there will need to be aggressive and sustained leadership from the government, parents, schools and the food and beverage industries.

Why is this the government's business? Why is this the school's business? Why is this the food and beverage industries' business? The last time I checked, none of these entities were involved in the birth of the child that was conceived between his/her parents. They didn't wipe the nose when he caught a cold. They weren't the ones who offered a simple kiss on a boo-boo to make it feel better. No, it was the PARENTS who did that!

Parents, listen to me. Take control of your own family and refuse to allow anyone to parent for you. If you child is overweight or obese, then take a pro-active stance in that situation by helping him overcome it. By modeling what your little one should be doing to keep his weight under control, you are teaching your child an invaluable lesson that he can pass down to his kids someday. We can end this cycle of obesity by educating our kids now about healthy and nutritional choices.

A panel of 16 so-called "experts" in the field of nutrition, advertising, marketing, childhood development and entertainment participated in the report. They based their findings on more than 120 studies on marketing, primarily television ads. They criticized the use of popular characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Spiderman to promote junk food and said these characters should only promote healthy foods for kids.

Do you ever get the feeling we're moving closer to becoming a socialist country with these kind of asinine recommendations for our government to step in and play mommy and daddy? Yikes!

Let's get one thing straight: Childhood obesity is not CAUSED by junk food ads as this flim-flam report suggests. No, if you want to know why this problem has gotten so out of hand, then look no further than the parents of these munchkins who have gotten bigger and bigger. Perhaps they could try modeling the low-carb lifestyle for their children to follow to help them lose weight. Gee, that's an idea!

Of course, rather than stop junk food companies from marketing their products, there could be an adventurous and bold ad campaign like this one in the UK. This is FAR MORE EFFECTIVE than mandating "healthy" advertising from food companies.

Lest we forget, it was our government that gave us this stupid idea to help kids deal with their obesity!

When will we ever learn?!

Do you agree with this report that childhood obesity is caused by junk food advertising? Or do you believe as I do that parents are the ones who have abdicated responsibility for this problem and shoud be the ones to lead the charge for change? Please click below to register your comments and don't be bashful. Tell me what you REALLY think!


Blogger Mark B. said...

Children should not be obese. Nor should their parents! We should all follow a basic healthy and fit lifestyle. I myself have lost 27 pounds of fat this year in order to have a fitte look. You can read my story on my website, if interested. Thanks.


12/07/2005 11:51 AM  
Blogger mags said...

The European Union's heath commision released some frightening, but not very surprising numbers, regarding childhood obesity today: More than 400,000 children become overweight each year in Europe (!). The numbers for North America is no better. The 2 leading causes of this epedemic is: poor eating habits combined with a lack of activity. No surprise there either. This is, of course, a very complex problem and not easy to solve. If you are interested, please visit (and leave me feedback if you wish) my recent blog regarding this:


12/08/2005 8:33 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Drobnis said...


Lack of parenting is certainly a problem. As a teacher, I see many parents who expect schools to discipline, feed (don't get me started on the high carb offerings in the cafeteria!), babysit, and if we have time, teach their children. If parents don't teach their children respect for others and self, and responsibility, we will continue to have obesity problems.


12/08/2005 8:49 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Great info everyone. THANKS for sharing!

12/09/2005 9:49 AM  
Blogger Iron-Man said...

Fat kids are victims of poor nutrition choices at school and lack of exercise at school and afterwards. Their parents also exacerbate the problem based on the food at home and the lack of exercise on weekends.

10/14/2007 9:38 PM  

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