Advertising's Affect / Impact on Americans' Diet Choices Research Proposal

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Advertising Impact on American's Bad Diet Choices

And why we are Lured to Eat "Bad" Food

The reason Americans, young and old, make bad diet choices and eat too much fast food is because advertising and promotions lure them into it.

Did you know that, each year, the fast food business spends billions upon billions of dollars on advertisements for kids? But do all those ads really work?

Some nutritionists (and parents) believe that kids might be more susceptible to advertising with their food choices than we might think.

Thomas N. Robinson, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of pediatrics and medicine at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., reports they are (Atkins, 2007).

When Dr. Robinson and his colleagues performed a taste test with 63 children between ages 2 and 6, he found most of the children liked the taste of food and drinks wrapped in McDonald's packaging better than identical food and drinks wrapped in unbranded packaging. This applied to foods like hamburgers, chicken tenders, French fries, 1% milk and baby carrots.

Researchers also report children who had more television sets at home and those who ate McDonald's food on a regular basis were more likely to prefer foods in McDonald's packaging than the foods in unbranded packaging (Atkins, 2007).

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Dieticians agree with too much TV time making for bad diets. Tara Gidus, R.D., national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association in Orlando, tells parents that kids are getting their diet ideas from the horrendous amount of TV they watch. And she, along with dieticians and nutritionists around the country, urge parents to involve their children in shopping

and good food choices and food preparation, so that what they see isn't always McNuggets.

"[When a child is between the ages of 2 and 6,] you really want to expose them to everything they're going to be eating as adults, so make lots of fruits and vegetables available and introduce them to different kinds of meats," Gidus says (Atkins, 2007).

Research Proposal on Advertising's Affect / Impact on Americans' Diet Choices Assignment

Lawsuits from consumer advocacy organizations against cereal manufacturers have forced them to alter their product lines and their ads and promos for them. The lawsuits indicate that the cereal manufacturers are liable in the poor diets of children. And just this month, General Mills has been chastised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their promotions that their Cheerios can reduce cholesterol significantly. This makes Cheerios a drug in the eyes of the FDA, and people are buying the product for its front-panel promises of a healthier life.

In the past two years both General Mills and Kellogg have actually improved the quality of their children's products and stopped some "overly-enthusiastic" marketing claims. This didn't happen out of the goodness of their hearts either. The Center for Science in the Public Interests filed a lawsuit arguing that the manufacturers had violated Massachusetts laws to protect consumers from such faulty claims.

It is possible that the move by the cereal companies can be evaluated for its impact on children's diets both before and after the changes. It is not clear if that is happening, however.

Cereal makes a good target to examine regarding advertising's impact on consumption of those products deemed unhealthy or that cause obesity in children because ready-to-eat (RTE) cereal is such a huge part of a child's diet.

Additionally, a technology revolution which allows "lightning fast" assembly line packaging and distribution of products like RTE cereal has been singled out as one of the causes of an increase in child obesity and families in general since the turn of this century.

This new process can manufacture food centrally and distribute them quickly at much lower costs to companies like Kellogg, Post, and General Mills. This automated speed of preparing and packaging reduces labor and the actual cost of preparation which implies increased consumption. And what kids see on TV today is available on your local grocery shelves much sooner than in the past so they can have it quicker.

Since the RTE cereals are advertised ad nauseum on TV, especially during kids' programs, and can be purchased in the stores so quickly -- even new products -- cereal again becomes the point of the stick in causing health problems such as type-2 diabetes and heart problems, as a result of the obesity.

As a side note, because of huge child obesity numbers, it is notable that the UK has actually put limits on junk-food TV advertising for children up to 16 years old. The rules' limits are complicated but involve not advertising certain junk foods during specific children-aimed shows. And certain popular TV characters like Shrek cannot be used to promote junk food on British TV. According to British dieticians, it seems the rules are helping. They are also costing junk food and RTE manufacturers millions of pounds.

It is thought my many that too much TV time for teenagers -- more than five hours a day -- may cause adults to become fast-food "addicts" as they get older. The problem stems from watching all those delicious-looking advertisements for fast food restaurants, snacks, etc.

The report was published in the Jan. 30 online edition of the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. For the study, Barr-Anderson and colleagues collected data on 564 middle school students and 1,366 high school students. The team examined survey data on the number of hours the students watched TV each day and what they ate five years later as young adults.

Five years out, high-school students who had watched more than five hours of TV a day and were now young adults ate less fruit, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich foods. Instead, they ate more snack foods, fried foods, fast food, sugar-sweetened beverages and foods containing trans-fats (Reinberg, 2009).

"This study is a clear wake-up call that entertainment media matter when it comes to health," said Kimberly M. Thompson, an associate professor of risk analysis and decision science at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Given the current obesity and overweight crisis in America, this study provides clear evidence that kids and parents should make a point of reducing sedentary time spent in front of a TV screen," she said (Reinberg, 2009).

Studies are finding that advertising and TV aren't the only causes of bad diets for Americans (and the rest of the world). Another study finds that parents may be one cause of teens drinking so much soda and eating a lot of fast food.

In a study done by UCLA, teens seem to be copycats of their parents' habits. That same study discovered that if a teen's parents ate at least five servings of fruits and veggies every day, so would their teenage children -- the results from several thousand teenagers who took part in a California Health Survey.

"I think a lot of people have presupposed for a long time that parental modeling does affect childhood behaviors," says Dr. Allison Diamant, one of the authors of the UCLA study. "One of the key findings from the study is if we can change parental behavior, we have a good chance of changing teen and adolescent behavior (Schnaufer, 2009)"

Among the findings:

• Teens whose parents drink soda every day are nearly 40% more likely to drink soda every day themselves than teens whose parents do not drink soda.

• Teens whose parents eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily are 16% more likely to do the same than teens whose parents do not eat five-a-day.

• Nearly half of adolescents (48%) whose parents drink soda every day eat fast food at least once per day whereas only 39% of teens whose parents do not drink soda eat fast food at least once per day.

• 45% of teens with parents who do not eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily eat fast food at least once per day. Whereas only 39% of teens with parents that eat five-a-day eat fast food at least once a day (Schnaufer, 2009).

It is an established fact that, in California, and certainly in other states as well, about one out of three teens (30%) is overweight or obese. That is a staggering percentage, especially in "health-conscious" California!

Amazingly enough, what some of these studies are saying is that one of the keys to curing obesity in teens is to cure the parents first. The parent as a role model applies also to diet, and this role can affect their children's health by modeling bad eating habits.

These hard economic times affect that same problem. With both parents employed it is very difficult to bring the whole family together for healthful, nutritional meals. And there may be some thought that "healthy" food is expensive, so that old fast food and less healthy diets are habits that die hard. The parents need to learn to eat healthy themselves or it is difficult to pass on any good, healthy behavior in their kids.

Diets that Don't Work?

Speaking of advertising and temptation, there… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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