TV advertisements that aggressively market junk food to children contribute to the growing obesity epidemic and should be regulated, according to group made up of Australian physicians and researchers.
Australian children aged five to twelve watch an average of two and a half hours of television a day and much of that time is filled with advertisements for junk food, according to the Coalition on Food Advertising to Children in Australia.
The Coalition was formed to try to tighten regulations restricting such marketing and to encourage advertisements for healthy foods during peak viewing times. The aggressive marketing of fast food and confectionery to children does influence their dietary choices early in life, and it puts them at greater risk of becoming obese or overweight in later life.
Excess weight puts youngsters at risk for diabetes and later health problems, such as heart attack and stroke.
A major concern is childhood diabetes. Doctors are seeing more children than ever before with type 2 diabetes, a disease associated with poor diet, overweight and lack of exercise.
Children under the age of eight are unable to distinguish between an advertisement and a television program, and therefore have difficulty separating fact from media suggestion. Children can be extremely vulnerable to television advertising promoting fast food. It makes it even more difficult for parents to provide their children with fresh, healthy food.
Children should be encouraged to eat a wide variety of fresh foods and undertake regular physical activity.
The experts state that foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt should only be eaten occasionally and not become part of children's regular diet.
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