Junk Food Ads Spur Kids' Obesity
CANBERRA (Reuters Health) - TV advertisements that aggressively
market junk food to children contribute to the growing obesity
epidemic and should be regulated, according to group made up of
Australian physicians and researchers.
Australian children aged five to twelve watch an average of
two and a half hours of television a day and much of that time
is filled with advertisements for junk food, according to the
Coalition on Food Advertising to Children in Australia.
The Coalition was formed to try to tighten regulations restricting
such marketing and to encourage advertisements for healthy foods
during peak viewing times, said Verity Newnham, national coordinator
for the National Division's Youth Alliance, a program within the
Australian Divisions of General Practice.
"The aggressive marketing of fast food and confectionery to
children does influence their dietary choices early in life, and
it puts them at greater risk of becoming obese or overweight in
later life." she said. Excess weight puts youngsters at risk for
diabetes and later health problems, such as heart attack and stroke.
"A major concern is childhood diabetes. [General practitioners]
are seeing more children than ever before with type II diabetes,
and that's a disease associated with poor diet and lack of exercise,"
Members of the Coalition include the Australian Divisions of
General Practice, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians,
the Public Health Association of Australia and a number of universities.
A study of 13 industrialized nations suggests that Australia
has the highest number of food ads per hour during children's
viewing times and youngsters can be easily influenced by these
messages, Newnham said. Children under the age of eight are unable
to distinguish between an advertisement and a television program,
and therefore have difficulty separating fact from media suggestion.
"Children can be extremely vulnerable to television advertising
promoting fast food," she said.
"It makes it even more difficult for parents to provide their
children with fresh, healthy food. Children should be encouraged
to eat a wide variety of fresh food and undertake regular physical
activity," added Newnham.
She emphasized that foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt
should only be eaten occasionally and not become part of children's
regular diet. She also suggested that parents turn to their doctor
for help on healthy diets.
The Coalition has met with Australia's Food and Grocery Council,
and hopes to begin dialogue with other major industry representatives
Reference Source 89