MONDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- The nation's leading group
of pediatricians is calling for a ban on all junk food and fast
food ads during children's television shows as a means of slowing
the rising tide of obesity among young people.
In a policy statement published in the July issue of
Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also asks Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to eliminate junk food and fast food ads on cell phones and other media, as well as to prohibit companies that make such products from paying to have their products featured in movies.
"Given that we are smack in the midst of an epidemic of child and adolescent obesity, it doesn't seem like all that bad an idea," said Dr. Victor Strasburger, lead author of the statement.
"We have many bans on advertising already," said Dr. Benard P. Dreyer, a professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. This latest action identifies just one more toxic thing that children should not be exposed to, he added.
One-third of American children and teens are overweight or
obese, double the proportion of 30 years ago, the AAP statement
said, and several studies have identified TV watching as a
Watching TV or movies or being engrossed in texting or playing
games on a cell phone means that children have less time to run,
walk or otherwise exercise and more time to snack, according to the
But what kids are watching also influences their eating habits,
and what they're seeing is a preponderance of commercials for
high-sugar, high-fat foods. One study found that 98 percent of food
ads seen by children on top-rated shows were for junk food. Another
study estimated that young people see 12 to 21 food ads every day
on average, for a total of up to 7,600 ads a year, the AAP
statement noted. And TV or DVD watching also disrupts the quality
and length of sleep, a known risk factor for obesity.
The AAP statement reminds pediatricians that they should be
asking two critical questions during routine well-child visits:
"How much screen time is being spent per day?" and "Is there a TV
set or Internet connection in the [child's] bedroom?"
Having a TV set in the child's bedroom seems to have an even
more profound impact on children's weight.
"I think [asking these questions] is really an advantageous recommendation," said Dana Rofey, an assistant professor in the Weight Management and Wellness Program at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "Several years ago, the AAP [recommended] that pediatricians track body-mass index. This is the other side of the coin."
"Kids spend an average of seven hours a day with media, and that media potentially affects virtually every concern that parents and pediatricians have about children from sex to drugs to obesity to school achievement," added Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque. "Spending 20 seconds to ask two media-related questions doesn't seem like that onerous a request."
The policy statement also recommends that pediatricians urge
parents to discuss food advertising with their children and discuss
healthy eating habits.
And "parents need to understand that the research is now clear
and convincing that exposure to screen time is one major factor in
child and adolescent obesity," stressed Strasburger. "So if your
child is watching five hours of TV a day, his or her risk of being
obese is several times increased over a child who watches less than
two hours a day, which is what the AAP recommends. If parents would
just observe the AAP guidelines about media use, they'd be in great
shape and so would their kids."
In response to the AAP recommendation, the Children's Food and
Beverage Advertising Initiative issued the following statement:
"Much of the American Academy of Pediatrics statement regarding an
ad ban is based on old or seriously flawed data. Simply put, if
advertising caused obesity, why have obesity rates increased while
television advertising has dropped significantly?"
The industry statement added, "With the 17 CFBAI industry
participants representing a substantial majority of the ads on
children's TV programming, the ad mixture has changed for the
better, as the [Institute of Medicine] IOM recommended in its 2006
report. Ads to kids now are for yogurt, soup, canned pasta,
cereals, and meals with vegetables or fruit, milk or juice."
Federal Communications Commission has more on
media and childhood obesity.
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