Junk Food Ads & Obesity in Children

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TV advertisements that aggressively market junk food to children contribute to the growing obesity epidemic and should be regulated, says a 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 ads for junk food, according to the Coalition on Food Advertising to Children in Australia.

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The Coalition was formed to try to tighten regulations restricting such marketing and to encourage advertisements for healthy foods during peak viewing times.

According to the Coalition, the aggressive marketing of fast food and confectionery to children influences their dietary choices early in life, and it puts them at greater risk of becoming obese or overweight in later life. Excess weight puts these youngsters at risk for diabetes and later health problems, such as heart attack and stroke.

A major concern is childhood diabetes. Doctors are seeing more children than ever before with type II diabetes, and that’s a disease associated with poor diet and lack of exercise.

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. 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.

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.

The Coalition has met with Australia’s Food and Grocery Council, and hopes to begin dialogue with other major industry representatives soon.

SOURCE: Nic Rowan 2002

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