The impact of food advertisement on children’s health and eating behavior

The impact of food advertisement on children’s health and eating behavior is a crucial interest, because of the rapid increase of obesity in children noticed in England, United States and many countries around the world (Reilly J et al, 1999).

In addition to that, according to the international obesity task force report that nearly 20% of children (school-age) in Europe are suffering from obesity, Obesity overweight are defined as having an extensive fat accumulation and according to the world health organization obesity is defined also as body mass index greater than or equal to 25 and 30 kgm, in other words overweight and obese happen when calories intake is greater than the number of calories burned during activity and basic metabolic processes.

This essay will examine the association between advertising and children obesity with highlighting the effect of the epidemic in the following way the first part will examine the influence of advertising on children in different aspects, and setting out recent data on the association between advertising and children obesity, the second part covers the risk of obesity in term of physical and mental health than the third part examine the different environment where the children’s are targeted and the last part include a recommendation and strategies for an effective prevention and management for the epidemic.

A wide range of researches show that food advertising directed for children affect their food choice (Robinson, 2007) and children’s exposure to advertising has increased dramatically over the past years (Ekstrom, 2007). While marketing activities are more used to target tweens and teens, a considerable amount is spent every year by companies to advertise their unhealthy food, the major part was on TV advertisement, for example UK has spent 743 million on food and drinks advertising in 2003 and some data show that this number is increasing (ofcom, 2004).

Television is still the most used for children’s aged between 2-13 years old and the advertisements display are still powerfully influencing (Story , 2004) in the way that 2 to 11 years old TV viewers are exposed to about 5500 food publicity yearly in the United States, in other words, 11. 5 minutes per day (Desrochers, 2008), a fact that challenge parents’ roles. According to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, it has been argued that advertising for really healthy foods like vegetables and fruits, known as “Go” products in the USA, are absolutely invisible.

As expected most of foods advertised are considerably unhealthy which is high in sugar, salt and fat and low in essential mineral and vitamins. Although an empirical study shows that food advertised on TV conduct to a bad food choices (Taveras et al, 2006) and that proven overweight and obese children have a high recalling rates of the food advertised than children with normal weight (Halford, 2008). Many of advertisers claim that in order to improve the effect of advertising appeals for children like the case of celebrities and cartoons characters are substantial to get children’s view of products advertised.

An analysis presenting a virtually version of advertising which one with and one without a celebrity character, demonstrates that products presented with popular character attract more children’s (Atkin & Block, 1983; Ross et al, 1984). In addition, a study analysing parents and children in supermarket shows that children were influenced by premium offers (Atkin, 1978), an effective way of business marketing. Furthermore many substantial research demonstrates a relation between the duration of TV viewing and classes of obesity and overweight for children and adolescents (Anderson, Crespo, Bartlett, Cheskin, & Pratt, 1998).

However, a divided studies ignore any association between viewing TV to obesity (Kaur, Choi, Mayo, and Harris, 2003) leaded to prospective studies which was resulting after three year following that children’s or adolescent who watched TV more than two hours a day were twice probably occur overweight during the process of the study (Francis, Lee, & Birch, 2003; Proctor et al. , 2003). These evidences confirm that excessive TV viewing leads to gain weight also it can affect on food choice and eating behavior.

Overall, obesity rate in the U.S and many other European countries has risen to a worrying rate, many questions persist about the nature and the consequences of this epidemic. Children obesity may not result in known clinical indication until later in life, the physical and emotional effect coordinate often in children lives. A wide body of research showed that obese children and youth are stigmatized producing an opposite emotional consequences, for example low self-esteem, negative body image and depressive feelings (Schwartz and Puhl, 2003; Strauss and Pollack, 2003).

However, the results of the studies on the emotional side of obese children are complex to summarize due to the variation of the study subjects including the differences between studies for example (age, gender, status, and obesity level) in spit of, many general statements can be made (Strauss and Pollack, 2003). In term of health Obesity is related with many chronic diseases and it increase risk of diabetes, cancer, cardio vascular problems and a lower life expectancy (James W, Jackson-Leach R, Mhurchu C, 2004).

It has been found that obesity could be defined as disorders that affect multiple organ system. These disorders contain hypertension, dyslipidemia, glucose intolerance, impaired balance and orthopedic problems and some of this symptoms cause clinical condition in obese children and some do not (Dietz et al, 2003), a statistic in 2000 shows that 400,000 deaths were ascribe to unhealthy diet and physical inactivity in United States (Mokdad et al, 2004), whereas in 1990 it was estimated by 300,000 due to the same reasons it has been seen an increase of one-third (Mcginnis, 1993).

In other words these factors represent the second major cause of death in America and its predicted to surpass tobacco as the first cause of deaths in the future (Mokdad et al, 2004). In addition, it has been argued that obesity involves immediate and long-term consequences (Finkelstein et al. , 2004). The United States spent about 98 to 129 billion on medical expenditures yearly financed by Medicaid and Medicare. Thus, this statement introduces obesity in view of a major aspect of health-care costs (Mokdad et al, 2004).

In other hand, research psychologists have made a comprehensive limitation of youth children’s comprehension of advertised messages where there is many areas to investigate in, most researches on advertising to children include studies of television, however, in the interactive media field, advertising and entertainment have made a new unique way, for example advertising on children’s websites where it include games, cartoons, puzzles and activities that promote for the product related called “branded environments”; a key point of marketing in the new media environment that explain advertising strategies have become more obtrusive.

Children are not targeted only in the home, as advertisers and sellers have found a new area in way all children can be reached which is the school classroom, a unique environment and due to the serious economic challenges that schools face, advertiser are progressively offering resources and founds in order to access to school children as audience for their products and commercials messages (of com, 2004) The issue of commercialization in school environment has already attracted some public attention and many citizen have already formed groups in different location.

Therefore, effectively, they have declined the forms of commercialization in the educational environment with showing so far the impact of these practices on children’s. (of com, 2004) A variety of studies in the last decade have investigated the several effects of advertising, physical and mentally and increasing attention of the implication on children’s health, it is time now to think about how to reduce children obesity.

As It have been mentioned early that there is a strong relation between TV viewing and child obesity, in a linked study, more than 60% of obese children could be related to excess TV viewing time (Gortmaker et al, 1990), The total pressure of ads on children’s diet is probably to be growing. In 2000 more than 75% of the commercialization budget for food and drink in Europe were used on TV advertising; it seems to be an effective measure to limit the exposure of children to ads (Lobstein, 2005).

Therefore, a recent research demonstrated that a ban of fast food advertising on TV would decline the rate of overweight children aged 3 to 11 year in USA by 18% (Chou et al, 2008). Then, reducing ads of energy-dense foods on TV seems to have an even greater effect, whereas a recent study claims that if food commercial on TV were banned it will result on significant reductions of children obesity (Saffer H, Chaloupka F, 2000).

It might be true that marketing budgets could be reduced but instead of that advertisers and promoters used to transfer the same message by different media, for example, the internet which is the new media environment “advergaming” (Powell L, Szczypka G, Chaloupka F, 2007). For example, in the UK, 13% of total amount spent on food, drinks and fast food advertising was by Internet (European heart network, 2005). Overall, limiting or banding the advertising of high-calories foods are urgently needed and it appears to be an important element that lead to make healthier diets for children’s.

Comprehensive studies should be provided in order to combat children obesity addressing to all the causes of obesity, including strategies to motivate children to be more physically active. In some countries such as the UK, Germany and Spain are trying to restrict the activities of advertising industry, for example, a responsible self-regulation and by demanding them to present social marketing technique to advertise healthier food.

Other countries’ governments are focusing on limiting food ads in schools like the case of Finland, where some countries have already banned food ads to children on TV (European heart network, 2005). While there are many challenges for the national policies in obesity prevention and the key player are governments, international organizations, private and non-governmental organizations, each country need to drive policy changes by their governments and its important to know that while health services takes usually a large part of national budget (European heart network, 2005).

A change at many levels and in different environments are significantly required, for example in the home environment as improving the nutrition quality of family dinners with encouraging children to be more active in term physically as well as increasing the time that they spent outside playing can make a change. (Jeffrey et al, 2005) also the school environment is really important and the role of school in introducing an active lifestyle module in which children learns about the benefits of the healthier life style and physical activity for life.

In the national level such as organizations and policy changes, a comprehensive modification is needed in the way to progress towards reducing of obesity through policy and system changes, for example encouraging children to go school by walking or by bike, increase the number of industry who product and advertise a healthy balanced product, improve the access of fruits and vegetables for a low-income population (obesity is related also with poverty) and increase the ability to afford healthy food at schools, supermarkets and farmers markets.

The efforts have already begun around the world and the unique and ultimate solutions are still far, (Jeffrey P. et al, 2005). the aim of obesity prevention programmes is to limit or stop the increase of obesity and reduce the new cases of this epidemic in a population, from a scientific viewpoint the most effective way to use in evaluating obesity prevention programmes are the change in the average of the body mass index or succession in obesity rate.

However in practical terms the incidence is rarely happened the rates of the prevalence of obesity is hard to decline in the short term cause firstly losing weight is not that easy and it cant be expected that large number of obese peoples sick to lose weight just to cease to not be classified as obese, secondly the social environment and social behavioural are reflected on the population weight , at present many countries have strategies an policy to deal with the problem of obesity and some countries still need to tackle obesity effectively such as Australia, Canada and United Kingdom.

However Singapore is one of the country that has achieved a degree of success through a coordinated system of healthy life covering all the different groups in the population for example preschool children, schoolchildren, young and adult peoples and recent result of the fit programmes are promising and declining rates of obesity has been noticed among primary and secondary school.

In conclusion there is an important growth of children obesity in European countries and many countries around the world and after the examination of the different aspects of obesity and the association between food advertising and obesity levels some research has been demonstrating that the exposure to TV ads or network games could increase the chances of obesity and it might result in many consequence in term of physical and mental health, physical activity and healthy diet seems to be important to prevent the epidemic but a necessary significant study must set in place to fight the increase and seriously measures should be taken as a matter of urgency.