Effects of Fast Food on Childhood Obesity

(Courtesy of Barry McGee/Unsplash)

Childhood obesity rates have soared in the last 50 years, reaching record heights. Obesity during childhood is known to have a significant impact on both physical and psychological health. Overweight children are likely to stay obese into adulthood, and obesity contributes to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

These rising obesity rates in children can be partly contributed to the billions of dollars spent each year on fast food advertising directed at kids. Policy makers need to take action to counter this problem, promote healthier meals and limit fast food advertising aimed at children.

According to the American Heart Association, approximately one in three children is obese or overweight. This rate is nearly triple what it was in 1963, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, fast food consumption is one of the main causes of the obesity epidemic. A report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that over one-third of children and adolescents are consuming fast food every day. Dr. Victor Strasburger, professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council, stated, “We created a perfect storm between media use, junk and fast food advertising and physical inactivity. We created a situation where we now have more overweight and obese adults in the U.S. than underweight and normal weight adults; it’s become an urgent public health problem.”

Fast food is known to have high sodium and saturated fat contents and is linked to poor nutrition. Targeting children with ads promoting these foods is exploitative. The average American child will see approximately 8,000 TV commercials  about food and only 165 of them are for healthy food options.

The food industry spends over $1.6 billion every year marketing towards young people. Kids are impressionable, and these advertisements shape their ideas about nutrition and food. Not only should fast food chains limit their targeted ads toward this age group, but there should be an increase in the number of ads about healthy eating and being active. By changing what kids see, we can shift their mindsets.

The Let’s Move! campaign, spearheaded by Michelle Obama, is an excellent example of what children should be seeing. This campaign focused on school lunches and providing healthier foods in America’s schools. It also emphasized being active and getting exercise every day. This is the type of message that should be pushed instead of ads that promote unhealthy eating habits.

There needs to be a major shift in the advertisements young people see. There should be more emphasis on healthy eating habits and physical activity and a decrease in ads about fast food.

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