Studies Link Diet and Disease
Before the letter appeared in The Times, UK doctors had already taken the Olympics committee to task for allowing McDonald’s and Coke to sponsor the games. Their concerns were legitimate. Diet-related diseases are taking a heavy toll around the world, and a major contributor is the fast-food industry.
Just this week two more studies linked the effects of a nutritionally poor diet with serious health impacts. The first, based on data from the Dutch Paediatric Surveillance Unit, showed that two out of three severely obese children have heart disease risk factors, some as young as age two. In the second, Tel Aviv University researchers found a connection between childhood obesity and later development of colon or bladder cancer.
Before the era of highly processed foods, childhood obesity and its impacts were rare. Now, given the skyrocketing number of obese children, health systems will be hard pressed to survive the future burden of diet-related diseases.
Big Food and Health Are a Bad Fit
The marriage of the fast-food industry and sports events unites two incompatible interests, in spite of claims they can work together. At the top of the food industry’s priorities is profit, even if that profit is gained through products that undermine health. At the top of sports events’ priorities is, or should be, the health of participants and the role models they can be for young athletes.
No matter how they spin it, the fast-food and beverage industries are a questionable fit for the Olympics and athletics in general. In spite of their efforts to brand themselves as promoting health when they sponsor sports celebrities and Olympics, they make the lion’s share of their profits selling products that are poor nutritional choices.
At some point, governments and consumers will have to decide whether they can continue to endorse and even subsidize industries whose interests run counter to public benefit. The Olympics are a good place to engage in that conversation.
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Read more: 2012 london olympics, advertising, athletes, Children, corporate influence, corporate responsibility, corporate social responsibility, corporate sponsors, fast food, greenwashing, junk food, obesity, olympics
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