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Healthy Advertising Does Nothing To Hold Children’s Attention

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Unfortunately in the Unites States and across the globe obesity is a huge factor not only in the lives of teens, adolescents and adults, but children as well. It seems like as every year ticks by the statistics show a dramatic increase in the level of obesity across the country. This epidemic has become so huge that obesity has been labeled as a disease in the US, placing its danger and need for treatment up there with diabetes and other health issues that relate to blood sugar levels and heart problems. Throughout this battle to lower the data related to this disease, many food suppliers, including a variety of fast food venders have changed their foods to incorporate more healthy choices. These choices are created with both adults and children in mind, offering up delicious savory meals that can be combined with sweet sides or fun salads. Unfortunately, there’s a big problem with these changes and it’s found in the advertising.

Miscommunication Strikes

Although the foods have changed, and there’s a much larger selection of nutritious products on the market for children in an effort to combat the troubles with obesity in the country, a study examining the reactions of children to these foods and the advertisements that accompany them was released this week and concluded that unfortunately, these changes have gone unnoticed. Medical News Today announced: “It would be an easy mistake for anyone to make; a young girl watches a TV screen displaying peeled apple slices in what looks like a french fry container. Though the bit of cardboard has a small apple on the front, it is essentially a repurposed french fry box.”

The researchers who took part in the studies used to make these announcements didn’t help the children in labeling what they were seeing in front of them, and instead had them answer to the best of their ability what it was that they thought they saw. This testing came out of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Colton Cancer Center located in New Hampshire, and worked with children who were of varying ages between three and seven. The kids looked at photos from advertisements that ran on television for fast food companies. Most of the ads used had actually appeared on one children’s television network or another, including those that catered specifically to cartoons. These were chosen from a selection of advertisements that took place between the summers of 2010 and 2011, which was around the same time that most of these companies took interest in focusing on healthy menu choices for little ones that would appeal to their flavor profiles.

The Results

Unfortunately, even with the effort put forward by fast food companies to help children understand what the best choices would be for them, half of the kids in the study didn’t know that the beverage they were shown was milk, and 90% of the children tested assumed that the apple slices for one chain was actually french fries, rather than fruit. That means that only 10% understood that what they were looking at was even a healthy option. These results were collected and shared with the CDC or Center for Disease Control and Prevention so that there is a better understanding of the huge impact that this kind of information has on obesity in American children; the levels of childhood obesity has actually doubled in the last three decades.

Reflections On Effects On Childhood Obesity

The CDC gave pause to parents across the country by reporting that there is a long string of instantaneous and extending health effects that are related to this condition and they may not go away as easily as you’d hope. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease are a few of the problems being faced today by these children. As well as stroke, type 2 diabetes, and different forms of cancers. One in every three kids in this country has cholesterol that is considered higher than normal. With the amount of adults racing to purchase products containing omega-3 and heart healthy fibers, it’s surprising to find that it’s the children who are getting left behind. Although fast food can be blamed for some of these issues, it’s more likely that the foods children are ingesting at home and during school hours that are making the biggest difference in their bodies. Denis Campbell of The Guardian reports: “One of Britain’s top doctors has warned that children’s health is being damaged because academies and free schools are allowed to opt out of serving healthy lunches to their pupils.”

Dr. James Sargent who was the leading director in the research concluded at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center determined that although it was proactive for the changes to be made to the advertising system, the purpose is somewhat defeated if they put the healthy foods into food packaging that resembles the unhealthy foods that are being changed to begin with. This is surprising considered that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year in the accumulation of advertising for children.

Numbers Continue To Grow

Despite these studies no action has been taken by either the government or the fast food providers in question, which leads the country to ask what else can be done to sway children from indulging in unhealthy foods. Of course, parents play a huge role in what kids are eating, but as children grow into teenagers and adults, they need to learn what is best for their bodies and how to stay healthy through a diet of nutritious foods. Many previous reports have been excited to announce that there’s been a dip in the obesity levels of children countrywide, but more recently experts have announced that these reports aren’t as accurate as they seem. Kim Painter of USA Today writes: “Reports of significant progress against child obesity in the United States have been premature, say the latest researchers to take a look at the data.”

This means that there’s still work to be done at home, in school, and in restaurants that provide nourishment for the future leaders of tomorrow.