TV and its effect on childhood obesity

Posted: December 1, 2009 in Obesity Medicine by

No one knows for sure why our kids are getting fatter, but the trend is undeniable.  Over the last 30 years, the prevalence of childhood overweight has doubled.   Some have cited the increase in high fructose corn syrup, some blame decreased physical activity (including drop in phys ed programs at schools), while others feel frequent eating of fast food is causing obesity.  We are, as a society overeating and under-exercising, and our kids are no exception.  Whatever the cause, the trend is alarming, and the causes are probably multi-factorial.

Tackling this problem will require attack from many angles.  Time spent watching TV has been directly correlated to childhood obesity.  One particular area of concern is advertising of junk foods to kids.  A researcher at the University of Arizona measured the frequency of advertising of unhealthful foods, compared to healthy ones.  His findings were dramatic.  According to The Arizona Republic, 10 hours of TV contained 55 commercials for junk food, and only one commercial for a healthy food.  The continual stream of unhealthy messages normalizes poor choices for those who watch the most TV.  Why choose fruit when you can have a fruit roll?  Why eat at home when you can go to Wendy’s?  Eating high calorie, high fat food is just plain fun, and TV is a constant reminder of that fact.

There are politicians who would ban advertising of junk food.  That approach resulted in making cigarettes less socially acceptable, and has merit for food advertising policy.  Please share your thoughts.