Sunday, November 12, 2006

the advertising impact on increaded weight gain

Well I do not agree with the 2 hours a day of TV for children over two, I think it is already two much as I think that 20 minutes/day and not everyday is plenty enough for children between 2 and 5... but other than that, I think this article (found in Los Angeles Family, oct 2006) is good and interesting:

Mass Media & Child Obesity (part one)

The Advertising Impact on Increased Weight Gain
by Dr. Richard Visser

The advertising industry makes junk food seem irresistible, and it may well be, as recent research shows that children could become physically addicted to junk food. In a recent study, Dr. Robert Lustig from the University of California, San Francisco suggests that childhood obesity arises from foods that are high in fat and fructose and low in fiber. When children eat these “insulinogenic” foods, the insulin not only increases the effects of the pleasure-chemical dopamine (making the child want to eat more of the same food) but also reduces the effects of the hormone leptin, making the child want to eat more and be less active.

Everywhere you find children, you find advertisements for these very foods, promising adventure, popularity, fun—and so much more—if they’d only buy and eat some of the product. The Institute of Medicine, which reported in 2004 on childhood obesity following a request by the U.S. Congress, has concluded that “Food and beverage advertising on television influences children ages 2–11 years to prefer and purchase high-calorie and low-nutrient foods and beverages.”

Such early establishment of brand loyalty is irresistible to advertisers, who have also discovered that children under the age of eight cannot distinguish the difference between a commercial and the TV program or movie it appears with. Kids think that commercials are presenting information, and they digest it with the same seriousness as Dora’s advice to “Share toys!”— particularly if it’s Dora who’s saying “Buy and eat this candy!” With your child’s favorite cartoon character urging her every five minutes to eat Fake-Flake cereal, it’s no wonder that she has a temper tantrum when you won’t buy it at the grocery store.

This brings us back to the question of nagging and the other routines kids go through to get the food they want into the grocery cart. The advertising industry has actually researched nagging through psychological studies designed to identify parents who give in to whining (parents who are divorced or have multiple children, for example) and detailed which purchases and outings are a result of whining, a tool for advertisers who want to ensure such purchases and outings happen more often.

Don’t despair. There are many things you can do to outmaneuver the advertising industry and keep your kids out of their grasp.

Turn the TV off during mealtimes. Keep the TV in the family room so you can monitor what your child is watching and for how long. Also, limit TV viewing to two hours a day for children over two and no TV at all for kids under two. Set a timer to ensure your kids are sticking with their two-hour limit. (Internet or video game time is included in those two hours, by the way.)

Does your child know when a commercial starts and her program ends? Watch TV with your child, and identify commercials. Point out when each advertisement begins and ends by using a timer.

Does your child recognize the purpose of commercials? Ask questions like, “What is the commercial selling? Do you want to buy it? Who makes money from this? How are they attracting your attention? Do you think the people in the ad are cool? Happy? Healthy? Why?” Help your child understand that the point of advertising is convincing kids to buy something.

Don’t forget about other types of advertising. Ads are everywhere—see how many different types you can identify together. Go to some online games—the new frontier for advertisers, who relish the long blocks of time players spend engrossed in games—and talk about what they’re selling while you’re playing. Find product placement in website games, movies, and TV, and see how many name-brand products or logos appear. Talk about why those products are there.

Take advantage of the great resources available from organizations like Commercial-Free Childhood ( and the ADA ( Make sure your children take advertisements with a grain of salt instead of that overly generous helping of sugar.

Dr. Richard Visser is the director of the Visser Wellness and Research Center in Aruba, as well as CEO of SimplyH, LLC and Simply Toddler, LLC in Los Angeles. He works worldwide to raise awareness of proper nutrition for healthy and fit toddlers and children.


  1. This blog was very interesting to read. I was looking for blogs to respond to for at least 20 minutes when I stumbled across this one. I agree with everything you said in this blog, especially the part about asking questions about advertising when commercials come on. I think parents need to make sure their children know the difference between commercials that provide information and commercials that are just trying to sell a product. I also agree with the main point of your blog which is that television does have a big impact on the way children eat. This was very well-written and very informative.

  2. Anonymous5:45 PM

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