An impressive new study was released in the American Journal of Public Health linking television viewing to childhood obesity. Australian researchers reviewed television food advertising throughout Australia, Asia, Western Europe, and North and South America, to determine the researchers assessed children’s exposure to advertising of unhealthy food items. In all countries examined, the researchers found that the number of unhealthy foods advertised were highest during the hours children were most likely to be watching TV.
While it may seem likely that hours in front of the television are hours that kids could be more active, research by scientists at The University of California, Los Angeles came to similar conclusions as the Australian scientists: television advertising is to blame. The scientists found that the number of advertisements for unhealthy foods was highest during the hours children watch TV—in all countries tested. The scientists concluded that getting children to reduce their hours of television viewing was an important factor in reducing childhood obesity.
Since the 70s, obesity among children ages 6 to 11 has tripled. Isn’t it time for food manufacturers to step up their level of social responsibility? Don’t our children deserve the best start in life? That includes healthy foods that grow healthy bodies. Marketing sugar- and chemical-laden “foods” to children lacks integrity and accountability. Is it any wonder so many children are overweight or obese: display unhealthy foods while they watch TV and…surprise, that’s what they want to eat. It’s like taking candy from a baby, or, um, GIVING candy to a baby.
Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD