Obesity Update: Still Your Fault, Advertisers!

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We just can't shake this obesity epidemic, can we? In fact, walking out to get my second round of Good Humor for the afternoon, I had to step over no fewer than three children, chubby little things who'd grown so fat that the poor little things were rolling themselves down the sidewalk.

The good news is the government's on the case to protect the little angels from candy and cereal and trans-fats and goodness knows what else. The bad news? A $1 billion propaganda effort hasn't made a dent in the problem.

The federal government will spend more than $1 billion this year on nutrition education -- fresh carrot and celery snacks, videos of dancing fruit, hundreds of hours of lively lessons about how great you will feel if you eat well.

But a review of scientific studies examining 57 such programs found mostly failure. Just four showed any real success in changing the way kids eat -- or any promise as weapons against the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.


Obviously, we're not spending enough!

But wait, there's also a promising sign of common sense glinting in the story. Let me bold it for the benefit of all. "Experts agree that although most funding targets schools, parents have the greatest influence, even a biological influence, over what their children eat."

You don't say! Suddenly, experts--not just pro-food-company PR people--are noticing that parents--PARENTS--have ultimate control over little Johnny's food supply? (If you read the story, do try to ignore the unfortunate theory that children are born with tastebuds attuned to Cheetos and white bread.)

But not so fast. Standing right there in the story is this line.

And then there's advertising.

You didn't think you were going to make it through one of these stories without being blamed, were you? Of course not.

Children ages 8 to 12 see an average of 21 TV ads each day for candy, snacks, cereal and fast food, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study. That's more than 7,600 a year. Not one of the 8,854 ads reviewed promoted fruits or vegetables.

So you hear that Mr. Goodbar, Toucan Sam, Chester Cheetah and all you other junk-food merchants? You should quit advertising your products and start advertising apples and oranges.

But I'm so confused. Junkfood advertising is a sinister force that kids are helpless to resist. A $1 billion effort conducted in the schools, doesn't work at all. What kind of Orwellian nightmare world are we living in? Advertising doesn't work; it's all advertising's fault!