Junk food ads bom­bard teens, put­ting them at risk

Pro­po­sed res­tric­tions on food and be­ve­ra­ge ad­ver­ti­sing to kids should in­clu­de youth up to age 16. We need to gi­ve healthy ea­ting ha­bits a figh­ting chan­ce

La Jornada (Canada) - - ENGLISH SECTION -

We shield our chil­dren and young tee­na­gers from many things: overt por­tra­yals of sex and vio­len­ce on TV and in mo­vies, drin­king al­cohol, smo­king, ow­ning guns and sig­ning con­tracts, to na­me a few.

The reasons are sound: we ho­pe to keep our youth from phy­si­cal and psy­cho­lo­gi­cal harm, ,p pre­vent them from fa­llingg in­to bad ha­bits or ta­king ac­tions with th h long-term con­se­quen­ces they may not fu fully ully un­ders­tand.

We pro­tect them so o they can ha­ve the best pos­si­ble fu­tu­re.e .

Yet we let them down downd in one vi­tal area: a health­yea althy re­la­tions­hip with food.oo od.

We lea­ve our youth alo­ne and ex­po­sed in a bru­tal mar­ket­pla­ce.

Fai­ling to set our youth on a path to a healthy re­la­tions­hip with food is lea­ding to sig­ni­fi­cant health pro­blems now - and d pro­mi­sing shor­ter an andnd sic­ker fu­tu­res.

Sin­ce 1979, the n num­ber of Ca­na­dian chil­dren wit­hith with obe­si­to­be­sity obe­sity has tri­pled­tri­pled, tri­pled, with ith al­most one in th­ree chil­drenld now h ha­vin­gi ex­cess weight.i ht I In­crea­ses ha­ve been hig­hest among youth aged 12 to 17.

Evi­den­ce shows that obe­sity ra­tes are in­fluen­ced by the amount of mar­ke­ting kids are ex­po­sed to. It puts them at risk for many health pro­blems, in­clu­ding heart di­sea­se, stro­ke and dia­be­tes.

Mar­ke­ting is big bu­si­ness and it’s sop­his­ti­ca­ted. Mi­llions of do­llars are spent tar­ge­ting chil­dren and youth th­rough mul­ti­ple chan­nels, in­clu­ding TV and so­cial me­dia. New Ca­na­dian re­search re­veals that over 90 per cent of food and be­ve­ra­ge pro­duct ads vie­wed by kids and teens on­li­ne are for un­healthy pro­ducts. The most fre­quently ad­ver­ti­sed pro­ducts on si­tes fre­quen­ted by teens in­clu­de ca­kes, co­okies and ice cream, ce­real, res­tau­rants and su­gary drinks.

Against this back­drop of per­va­si­ve mar­ke­ting is the fact that less than half of Ca­na­dian youth ages 12 to 19 eat the re­com­men­ded mi­ni­mum of fi­ve ser­vings of fruit and ve­ge­ta­bles daily.

Chil­dren who view TV fast-food ads are ap­pro­xi­ma­tely 50 per cent mo­re li­kely to eat fast food. Re­gu­lar con­sum­ption of fast food is as­so­cia­ted with in­ges­ting an ex­tra 800 ca­lo­ries a week for boys and 660 ca­lo­ries for girls, trans­la­ting in­to a pos­si­ble weight gain of 4.5 kg (10 pounds) or mo­re a year.

Que­bec saw the light years ago. Sin­ce 1980, that pro­vin­ce has ban­ned all com­mer­cial ad­ver­ti­sing di­rec­ted at chil­dren un­der age 13.

Le­gis­la­tion be­fo­re Ca­na­da’s Se­na­te si­mi­larly pro­po­ses a ban on the ad­ver­ti­sing of food and be­ve­ra­ges to Ca­na­dian chil­dren un­der 13. The pro­po­sed le­gis­la­tion is an ex­ce­llent first step. But it needs to be amen­ded to pro­tect chil­dren up to age 16. We need to gi­ve healthy ea­ting ha­bits a figh­ting chan­ce.

Ot­her coun­tries, li­ke the Uni­ted King­dom, ha­ve si­mi­lar res­tric­tions on food and be­ve­ra­ge ad­ver­ti­sing to chil­dren up to

16 16. The­re’s in­crea­sing evid­de evi­den­ce that teens are par­ti­cu­larly vul­ne­ra­ble to foood food and be­ve­ra­ge mar­ke­ting and con­su­me mo­re of it than chil­dren. The ac­tionn­sac­tions and reac­tions of teen­na tee­na­gers are of­ten gui­ded byb by the parts of the brain coc con­nec­ted to emo­tion an and re­ward/gra­ti­fi­cat tion; this ma­kes tee­na agers very sus­cep­ti­ble to un­healthy im­pul­ses - which will sur­pri­se no pa­rent. Re­search al­so shows teens can cri­ti­que ad­ver­ti­se­ments when prom­pted, but on their own are li­kelyl to be­lie­ve ad­ver­ti­sing and ac­cep­taccc mis­lea­ding claims. In a sur­vey of 128 in­tern­nat in­ter­na­tio­nal ex­perts on food, nu­tri­tion and obe­sity, most re­resp res­pon­dents re­com­mend res­tric­tions on food and be­ve­ra­ge ad­ver­ti­sin­gad un­til at least un­til age 16, and mo­re than half re­com­men­ded an age 18 res­tric­tion. When we want a young per­son to grow up with cer­tain va­lues and beha­viours, we en­su­re that’s what they’re taught, see con­sis­tently from ro­le mo­dels and ex­pe­rien­ce them­sel­ves. It’s ca­lled good pa­ren­ting and good edu­ca­tion.

So why do we allow our young peo­ple to be con­ti­nuously bom­bar­ded with the op­po­si­te of good ea­ting mes­sa­ges and then ex­pect them to grow up with healthy ea­ting ha­bits?

It’s ti­me we ad­ded food and be­ve­ra­ge ad­ver­ti­sing to the list of pro­tec­tions we af­ford our chil­dren and tee­na­gers. -TROYMEDIA

Dr. Tom Wars­haws­ki is an ex­pert with Evi­den­ceNet­work.ca and chair of the Child­hood Obe­sity Foun­da­tion and an as­so­cia­te cli­ni­cal pro­fes­sor of pe­dia­trics at the Uni­ver­sity of Bri­tish Co­lum­bia. Mary Le­wis is VP Re­search, Ad­vo­cacy and Health Pro­mo­tion, Heart & Stro­ke. Heart & Stro­ke and the Child­hood Obe­sity Foun­da­tion are foun­ding mem­bers of the Stop Mar­ke­ting to Kids Coa­li­tion, who­se goal is to res­trict food and be­ve­ra­ge mar­ke­ting to Ca­na­dian chil­dren and youth (www.stop­mar­ke­ting­to­kids.ca).

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