Advertising has massive effects on the way we think and the habits we form from childhood on. It is my opinion that irresponsible advertising geared towards children is contributing to poor food choices made during childhood. This in turn is contributing to the epidemic of childhood obesity plaguing our country.
Here is a video breaking down just how much childhood obesity is costing this nation.
Today there are more outlets than ever to reach kids with advertising. Companies realize that kids are an enormous market, and with most households consisting of two working parents, kids are making more of the purchasing decisions of a household. Kids are influencing around 47% of home spending decisions according to an article called Trillion-dollar kids from the Economist.com and that was in 2005. There is no telling how much kids influence their parents now.
Companies spend huge amounts of effort into reaching kids. McDonalds spent 42 million on advertising kids meals alone last year. Toys are used to incentivize kids to nag their parents into nagging their parents to buy them meals. This is happening to children and they do not even realize it. Kids “advertising defense mechanisms” are not yet developed, which is why companies target them at such an early age.
Kids of all ages see 3-5 ads per day (Harris, Jennifer). When you talley up all the time children in spend in front of the TV it comes out to twice as much time as spent in the classroom by the time they are finished with high school (Radunovic, Luke).
The effects of all this junk food exposure is hurting children’s health. Studies have shown that a positive correlation exists between advertising and childhood obesity.
It causes children to have a distorted view of healthy portion sizes and consume more junk food. On top of this researchers found that regions of the brain associated with reward were more active in obese kids than children of a healthy weight. Another study in an article called “7 Highly Disturbing Trends in Junk Food Advertising to Children” states that children who watch a 30 minute show with commercials consume 50% more calories and weigh an additional 10 pounds per year (Gottesdeiner, Laura).
Fast food companies are not the only problem. Cereal companies are a culprit as well. They use websites like Millsberry.com, which has 387,000 children using it monthly to reach kids away from the TV. These cereals cause a sugar dependency in kids, as they get older. In 2008, a group of researchers suggested that sugar affects opioids and dopamine in the brain, making the sweet additive very hard to stop using once a person is accustomed to having it (Nelson, Daryl).
With all of this knowledge certain customers are back lashing against these companies. Because of this they are promising to cut back on ads geared towards children, but it is not enough. Many countries have stricter regulation than the United States that prevent companies from taking advantage of child market. Something similar needs to be done in this country to prevent the epidemic of childhood obesity from increasing. Some issues preventing this are the view of a corporation as a person by the Supreme Court and commercial speech being protected by the first amendment. Because of this it is up to us to educate ourselves on healthy food choices and make informed decisions for our own well-being.
It has been unquestioningly proven that fast food is detrimental to the health of the nation. When cigarettes were discovered to be harmful to human health, they became quickly and heavily regulated; now that we know the extent of the effects of fast food, why are we not doing the same? In fact, a study of 10,000 participants by the Rand Corporation revealed that poor diet and obesity increases a person’s chances of developing chronic illness by 67%, compared to only 25% in smokers and 12% in heavy drinkers. (Sturm, Roland, Kenneth B. Wells) This percentage is comparable to the increase in chronic illness in an average person aging from 30-50! The study also showed that people struggling with poor diets and weight management spend more money on healthcare throughout their lives than heavy smokers and drinkers combined. The worst comparison statistic of all, unfortunately, is that over half of Americans are overweight, and half of them are dangerously overweight, compared to only a fifth of the population who are smokers and less than a tenth who are heavy drinkers.
So why compare fast food to the two most common addictive substances we know of? Because research is continuing to reveal that fast food can be equally addictive to frequent consumers. In a study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine, an internet chatroom for preteens and teens struggling with eating and weight disorders revealed startling language very similar to that of addicts. (Pretlow, Robert A). This included self-loathing, inability to control urges, and binge eating junk food when stressed or worried. But why is fast food so addictive relative to healthier options? (Gunnars, Kris)
The main culprit of nearly all types of addictions is dopamine. Dopamine is the brains reward system with the original purpose of rewarding us for survival actions such as eating and sex.
Unfortunately, the ingredients in fast food such as fat, salt, and MSG release much more dopamine than natural foods. (Moss, Michael) As a result, the brain learns to crave fast food just as a smokers brain craves nicotine and just like an occasional smoker can quickly begin consuming a pack a day, so can a fast food addict’s brain build a similar tolerance which requires more and more food to maintain dopamine levels.
If you are wondering how fast food addiction can outpace alcohol and nicotine addictions by such large margins, look no further than your television. Whereas advertising for nicotine is all but completely banned and alcohol is heavily regulated, there are very few restrictions on fast food advertising. (PLOS ONE) According to a study performed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research Program, “In 2009, spending on food marketing to youth in the United States was $1.79 billion, with $1 billion directed at children aged 2–11 years. Television was the predominant medium to reach youth, and quick service or fast food restaurants spent $154 million on television advertising aimed at the child demographic”. Additionally, several fast food companies serve junk food meals specifically designed for kids and often include a toy to further incentivize children to eat unhealthy food. Marketing addictive, unhealthy food directly to children, whose brains are still developing and are extremely prone to addiction, is despicable and incredibly unethical, yet somehow an accepted practice in our country. In light of these unethical practices, something must be done to improve our nation’s health crisis, especially concerning the younger generation.
Addictions of all types have terrible impacts on the lives of those affected, and it’s our responsibility as a nation to limit its effects, especially when it comes to our children.
The United States is quickly becoming a very overweight country. While what you put in your mouth is very important, how much you consume also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy diet. Many of us were taught as kids to clear our plates and not to be wasteful, but we need to get out of that mindset. We do not need to eat everything placed in front of us!
An important thing to keep in mind concerning portion sizes is the difference between portion size and serving size. A serving size is the recommended or the common amount consumed of a product (what is on the nutrition label) while portion size is how much you put on your plate. The discrepancy between these two can be very confusing when you are trying to read nutrition labels and watch your calorie consumption. Thankfully for us the United States Food and Drug Administration has proposed new changes to the existing Nutrition Facts labels. These changes will bring serving sizes on packaged foods more close to the normal portion size of an American consumer. More information on the changes can be found at the following link.
1. A supper easy useful trick for smaller portions is smaller glasses, plates, and bowls – Even if you feel like you need to complete all the food on your plate, with smaller plates and bowls you can trick your stomach into thinking that you ate a whole plate of food. However half of the plate should still be fruit and vegetables, following the my plate recommendations
2. Measure your food – first of all measure how much you usually eat to have a base for where you need to make improvements. After figuring out what foods you are eating too much of start measuring them out to keep your portion sizes accurate. I know you are busy and that this takes up precious time in your life, to help save some time there are many useful tricks to get by actually pulling out a measuring cup or scale.
3. When eating out be careful with your portions! This one is very important. When you do eat out pay attention to the portions that you are getting and make sure that vegetables are included and that you fill up on them first.
4. Be aware of feelings of hunger and satisfaction. This may sound silly but many people do not stop eating after their stomach tells them they are full. This could be due to the need to clear their plate or good tasting food. Along those lines, do not snack just because you are bored! This is very common and not at all necessary!
5. Don’t skip meals! – When you skip meals, it makes you more hungry and results in an extra-large portion in your next meal. Most people need 3 well balanced meals and one snack per day.
Hopefully these tips can help you decrease your portion sizes and bring you closer to a well-rounded health diet!
Cooking at Home
Mary Jane Shea
Over the last few decades, Americans have been eating out more and cooking at home less often. When you cook at home, you can often make better choices about what and how much you eat and drink than you do when eating out. Cooking can also be a fun activity and a way for you to spend time with family and friends.
When cooking remember to focus on foods you need, eat fewer empty calories, and decrease potion sizes. Many recipes include calorie content per serving. Compare calorie content and choose meals that fit within your daily calorie needs. If cooking for a family, you may each have different calorie needs. You can still cook the same nutritious foods, but vary the portion sizes. For example, an active adolescent male can still eat the same foods as his five-year-old sister, he will just eat more. This is depicted in the chart below. Depending on age, gender, and activity level, this is about the accurate range of calories each gender and age should consume per day.
One of Americans least favorite tasks is going to the grocery store. With the internet and online services continually growing, so are the ways that consumers are purchasing their goods. It is already common for people to purchase things such as clothing and other various items online, but now consumers want to be able to order their groceries online for delivery or a quick pick up. This will encourage busy people to cook at home more and to avoid eating out as much due to convenience reasons. There are a few services that have come to the market first to offer this, but many of them are still in the developmental stages. Grocery stores are going to have to come up with a way to offer this to consumers soon in order to keep up with other competitors. As long as the quality of the food and other household items such as laundry detergent are as good as or close to store quality, then consumers will be drawn to saving time in the grocery store and will turn to this new form of grocery shopping. The video below offers a customer’s testimony on mywebgrocer.com’s process. Watch the link below to learn more.
Food and Politics
We need a lot of food to feed Americans, and as economics go an industry was created to cater to our nation’s needs. Like any other industry the food industry is a heavily segmented market. Ranging from fast food to gourmet, food and its production generate high volumes of sales as a human necessity for life. The government has established regulations on the food industry through the Food and Drug Administration for consumer protection. Politics and food consumption collide in many different areas of importance, but the most important are revolve around public health, economics, and regulation.
Areas of attention need to be addressed with questions as to how the government should go about interacting with the food industry. How much regulation is good for the industry? Who should bear the burden of regulation, consumers or producers? Should government develop laws around food consumption, or provide education on health and wellness? Should consumers be economically supported or should producers be subsidized? The right answers to these questions are not immediately evident, so we must patiently learn how to best feed a nation with healthy eating at the forefront of our agenda.
Historically, developing legislation and education material on healthy eating has been hampered by fierce lobbying by the deep pocketed fast food industry. By influencing those in power, companies whose products are seen as unhealthy, sugary, and high in fat content have used money to keep legislators on their sides even if they need to fudge some science to stay there. To move forward the government will need to learn how to navigate this environment.
To make a difference in how people eat the government must change the way consumers view food. The fast food industry has been let loose in a free market to drastically change the food landscape that consumers find themselves in. Government should supply ample information, education, and protection to consumers. Transparency with food content such as Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) and calorie counts should be divulged by the industry. Economically feasible programs such as food stamps should be revisited and improved. Food preparation education needs to be integrated into the public school system. If importance in placed on healthy food consumption, people can make proper decisions regarding their health.
Chipotle is the first fast food company to take responsibility for its product. Ultimately, Chipotle views transparency with what is in their food and how they got their ingredients as an essential part of their business. This enables them to make monetarily difficult decisions like posting calorie counts and eliminating GMO containing ingredients. Chipotle views the ethical responsibilities of the food industry to be the responsibility of those who make a profit from it. a. While Chipotle’s ban of GMOs is seeing backlash, respocible sourcing and production of food should be supported (Sexton)
Consumer trends towards fast food in a time crunched society show a need for more education on food. When preparation of healthy food is not taught to children by their parents schools should have the capability to help? Public schools should be supplied with the means and curriculum to teach our students to cook food, and cook food well.
The United States is facing a problem with how its citizens view food consumption due to the general health of the population related to diet. This is an issue that demands being addressed in the near future.
Sturm, Roland, and Kenneth B. Wells. "The Health Risks of Obesity."Rand.org. Rand Corporation, 2002. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB4549.html>
Pretlow, Robert A. "Addiction to Highly Pleasurable Food as a Cause of the Childhood Obesity Epidemic." US National Library of Medicine. Taylor & Francis, July 2011. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3144482/>.
Gunnars, Kris. "How Food Addiction Works (and What to Do About It)."Authority Nutrition. N.p., 17 Aug. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <http://authoritynutrition.com/how-food-addiction-works/>.
Bernhardt, Amy M., Cara Wilking, Diane Gilbert-Diamond, Jennifer A. Emond, and James D. Sargent. "Children's Recall of Fast Food Television Advertising-Testing the Adequacy of Food Marketing Regulation." PLOS ONE. N.p., 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fjournals.plos.org%2Fplosone%2Farticle%3Fid%3D10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0119300>.
Moss, Michael. "The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food." The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Feb. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html>.