by Marion Nestle
Oct 4 2011

Food marketing gets plenty of attention, and about time!

Here are some of the latest reports on how food marketing influences eating patterns and obesity.

American University’s Kogod School of Business publishes a business magazine, Kogod Now.  It latest CoverStory takes a tough look at at how targeted marketing of foods and beverages contributes to the obesity crisis, especially among minority children and adolescents.

Cornell University’s Pierre Chandon and Brian Wansink ask the question, “is food marketing making us fat?”  Their review of the research leads them to conclude that a “small steps” approach ought to help reverse obesity.   Recent analyses, however, suggest that reversing overweight is likely to take a lot more than small steps, but it’s worth reading what they have to say about marketing practices.

Two reports from Canada indicate that industry self regulation has little effect on actual food industry marketing practices.  Instead, banning the marketing of junk foods, as has been accomplished in Quebec, works somewhat better.

The American Academy of Pediatrics takes a look at how television watching affects obesity in children.  If kids watch a lot of TV–and they have a TV set in their bedrooms—they are at high risk of becoming obese.  The obvious conclusion?  Get rid of the TV!

It is heartening that so much of the research on obesity these days focuses on changing the food marketing environment.  Now if policymakers would just pay some attention!

  • In just three words (with a picture that’s worth 1,000 words), this M&M’s commercial nailed the problem …

  • i agree about getting rid of the tv – for obesity sake and for self-image, especially with respect to teenagers!

    That being said, removing foods won’t necessarily cure the problem. Yes, choice is a factor in obesity and thus removing said choice might deflate some of problem. However, it’s also a systemic problem that erupts out of social and economic (and thus political) conditions that we have set up as a society. Gotta start thinking about how to work on those issues too…

  • This is really spot on Marion. TV food ads are not just the majority source of why kids are becoming obese, but also the ads that are around them even in school. I’ve also delved in referral marketing for my shop with an eye for the health of my clients.

  • Margeretrc

    How about people taking responsibility for their own health? My son and daughter both had (used) TVs in their bedrooms, but they also participated in sports, led active lives, and did well in school–and were/are not fat. Because we–as parents–made sure that all the other stuff came first. Advertising is going to be there–if not on TV, in magazines, on billboards, and elsewhere. What kids need is guidance and education in how not to be brainwashed by what they see all the time. Food marketing isn’t making us fat–eating too much of the wrong stuff and not eating enough of the right stuff is. And that is not just about marketing, though of course industry is going to do what they can to make us want their sugar and starch laden products. It’s also the fault of all the propaganda bashing natural fats and promoting whole grains and low fat garbage perpetrated by the media and the USDA.