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Serving kids an unhealthy helping of junk food via television advertising

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TV shows aimed at kids are accompanied by advertisements for less-healthy food, according to a study published today, December 18, 2013. Are these unhealthy ads increasing kids' susceptibility to less-optimum food choices?

Comparing Ads

The researchers in this study, completed at the University of Illinois, Chicago, compared ads in television programming in 2009. They used information from the Nielsen reports, and analyzed the nutritional data from products advertised during different time slots. What did the researchers find? That programming aimed at kids contained advertising for products significantly lower in nutritional value. According to the University of Illinois press release, "On children’s programming, more than 95 percent of ads were for products high in those unhealthy contents."

Marketing to Kids vs. Nutrition: Voluntary Changes

An inter-agency working group, composed of the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) is working to establish and maintain recommendations for marketing in regards to food quality for children. Although the agency's recommendations are non-binding, they're hoping that manufacturers will modify their marketing behavior in order to help parents who want to provide healthy choices for their kids.

According to the agency, "Advertising and marketing should encourage children to choose foods that make meaningful contributions to a healthful diet from food groups including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish, extra lean meat and poultry, eggs, nuts or seeds, and beans. In addition, the saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, and sodium in foods marketed to children should be limited to minimize the negative impact on children’s health and weight."

Nutrition and Kids

Childhood obesity is on the rise, along with obesity-related conditions such as diabetes. Will product manufacturers voluntarily give up on the extra profits in order to help combat childhood obesity? Only time will tell.

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