by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Television

Jan 24 2009

Update on obesity issues

While the new website was in production, I got a bit caught up on my reading.  Here’s what’s been happening on the obesity front.

Middle-age spread: eat less or else! A new study proves what every woman over the age of 50 knows all too well: you just can’t eat the way you used to without putting on the pounds.  Muscle mass declines with age, calorie needs do too.    Activity helps some, but not enough.  I think it’s totally unfair, by the way, but I’m guessing the same thing happens to men (but they have more muscle to begin with).  Alas.

Turn off the TV: Common Sense Media looked at 173 studies of the effects of watching TV on child and adolescent health.  Of 73 studies examining correlations between TV-watching and obesity, 86% found strong associations.  TV-watching was also strongly associated with such unfortunate outcomes as cigarette smoking, drug use, early sexual activity, and poor academic performance.  Conclusion: if you want to encourage kids to be healthier, turn off the TV!

British government launched an anti-obesity campaign: The UK government’s Change4Life campaign is designed to promote healthier lifestyles.  This is causing much discussion, not least because of its food-industry sponsorship (uh oh).  Food companies are said to view the campaign as good for business (uh oh, indeed). The government wants everyone to help with the campaign by putting up posters and such, and its website is cheery.  Buried in all of this is some good advice, but most of it is phrased as eat better, not eat less or avoid.  That, of course, is why the food industry is willing to fund a campaign which, if successful, could hardly be in the food industry’s best interest.

Jan 7 2009

School interventions work! (Sometimes)

It’s always nice to have some evidence for what you think makes sense.  David Katz and his Yale colleagues analyzed a bunch of studies attempting to improve both school nutrition and physical fitness.  Taken one by one, these studies generally showed negligible improvements in body weight, if any.  But these investigators analyzed a selected group of 19 (of 64) studies that met their inclusion criteria.  Taken collectively, these studies showed that the interventions improved body weight.  The overall effects on weight were small, but in the hoped-for direction.  Katz et al’s conclusion: combined nutrition and physical activity interventions are worth doing, especially when they include parental involvement along with cutting down on TV.

If the link to the paper doesn’t work for you, try the abstract on PubMed.

Nov 15 2008

The latest on food marketing to kids

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has a big project on marketing foods and beverages to children.  Its most recent report singles out television advertising as the most pervasive medium; even babies watch TV and see loads of commercials for junk foods.  The authors, Nicole Larson and Mary Story of the University of Minnesota, provide an excellent one-stop review of methods, expenditures, and other such data, along with useful suggestions for what to do about this problem.

Apr 3 2008

Marketing junk food to kids: new research

The April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association carries three research papers on the current state of food marketing to children. One finds that websites targeted to kids carry advertising for junk foods. One compared breakfast cereals marketed to children to those marketed to adults; the kids’ cereals had more calories, sugars, and salt but less fiber and protein (oh, great). The third looked at Saturday morning TV and found 90% of the food commercials to be for junk foods. Hmm. Doesn’t sound like much has changed since the Institute of Medicine’s call for stopping all this (or at least slowing it down). Time to hold food companies accountable, I think.

Mar 17 2008

A ban on marketing food to kids?

Consumers International and the International Obesity Task Force have just proposed a ban on global marketing of food to children that goes much further than the voluntary promises of food product companies like Kraft, Kellogg, and PepsiCo. The proposal calls for:

  • No radio or TV advertising of junk foods (including beverages) from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • No marketing of junk foods on social-networking Web sites and other forms of new media.
  • No gifts and toys to promote junk foods.
  • No use of celebrities to market junk foods.
  • No use of cartoon characters to market junk foods.

Why are they doing this? Because voluntary industry efforts are not working. I wonder how far they will get with this thoughtful and hard-hitting proposal.

Feb 19 2008

Marketing junk food to Hispanic kids

A study from Johns Hopkins has done for Hispanic TV what decades of studies have done for general TV: analyzed the number and content of televised food commercials. Guess what: one-third of food commercials on Spanish-language TV are directed to kids and most of these are for junk foods or sodas. Surprise!

Nov 13 2007

British restrictions on TV advertising are not working

Out of the United Kingdom comes news that its new policies designed to restrict food advertising to children are not working. They were not nearly restrictive enough. Most programs watched by young children are not affected by the rules, and food companies have figured out ways to continue business as usual. Lessons to be learned?

Sep 4 2007

More Research on Marketing to Kids

Once researchers started to look, the results just pour in. Thanks to Margo Wootan of CSPI for send this new study from the journal, Pediatrics. It finds virtually all ads for food products on kids’ TV to be for the junkier ones. No surprise here; these are the profitable products. How many more of these studies do we need? Really, isn’t it high time for a few restrictions? How’s this for a starting position? No marketing of foods to kids. Period.

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