June 27, 2011

Doctors Recommend Banning Fast Food Ads On TV

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that more than one in six children and teenagers are obese, a three-fold increase from a generation ago and physicians are recommending that televised ads for fast food should be banned, Reuters Health is reporting.

"Congress and the Federal Trade Commission have to get tough with the food industry," said Dr. Victor Strasburger, who wrote the new policy statement for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a group of 65,000 physicians.

"It's time for the food industry to clean up its act and not advertise junk food to young children. Just by banning ads for fast food, one study says we could decrease obesity and overweight by 17 percent."

In 2009, the fast food industry spent $4.2 billion on ads in various media and research shows they are effective. One study found children watching animated programming downed 45 percent more snacks when they were exposed to food ads instead of ads for other products.

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to limit the time their children spend watching non-educational programs to two hours per day, and take the television screens and computers out of their sons' and daughters' bedrooms, The Telegraph reports.

"Parents should serve as positive role models for their children and limit their own as well as their child(rens')s television viewing," said Dayna M. Maniccia, of the University at Albany in New York.

In a new study, also in Pediatrics, Maniccia and her colleagues found using an electronic device to ensure the TV turns off at a certain time appears to be effective. "Limiting advertisements would be a positive step toward improving children's health. Young children can't distinguish between ads and programs."

Several companies have already pledged to shift their advertising toward healthier choices for young kids, yet research from last year shows fast food restaurants are stepping up marketing directed at children and toddlers.

"It's all just a smokescreen anyway -- the big fast food corporations are basically interested in making money, not making good nutritional products," said Strasburger. "With billions of dollars in profits every year should come a sense of public health responsibility. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to."

Strasburger urges families to follow a few simple steps, "Parents need to listen to the AAP guidelines which say, "ËœLimit your child to less than two hours of media time per day, keep the TV set and Internet out of the bedroom and avoid screen time in kids under two.'"

But cutting screen time alone isn't enough, according to Strasburger. "We have to give kids healthy alternatives to being couch potatoes," he said. "The question is, how fat do we want people to become? Congress needs to think about that."


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