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Colleen Doyle (10 posts)  RSS

Less Food Marketing, Healthier Children

January 20, 2015

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD


Have you seen all those fun and flashy commercials encouraging your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables? No? Neither have I. And there's a reason for that. 

Out of the $1.79 billion that the Federal Trade Commission says major food and beverage companies spent marketing foods and beverages to kids and teens (in 2009 - the most recent data available), less than .05% was spent marketing fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately for those of us who care about children's health - which I hope is all of us - the majority of those dollars was spent on marketing unhealthy foods and beverages. Forty percent was spent to market fast food and other restaurant foods, and another 22% was spent promoting high-sugar sodas and other carbonated beverages.

And consider these additional statistics:

  • Two BILLION advertisements for foods and drinks appeared on websites directed at kids in 2009, mostly for sugary cereals and fast food.
  • Dollars spent to market foods and drinks to kids via online games, mobile apps, social network ads, and other digital media increased by 51% from 2006 to 2009.
  • Companies spent $149 MILLION in 2009 to market sugary drinks and food in schools.
  • Companies spent $113 MILLION in 2009 on packaging with marketing aimed at kids (think SpongeBob, Hello Kitty, and other characters).
  • Fast-food restaurants spent over $700 MILLION in 2009 on marketing to kids, nearly half of which was spent on kids' meal toys and giveaways.
  • Kids saw 12 to 16 TV advertisements per day for unhealthy foods or drinks in 2011.
  • Eighty-four percent of foods and drinks advertised to kids on Spanish-language television are unhealthy.

And according to the Institute of Medicine, such advertising and marketing does indeed influence children's preferences, purchase requests, and diets - and is a contributing factor to the rates of overweight and obesity seen among US youth. Over the past 3 decades, rates of obesity have more than doubled among children ages 2 to 11 and have more than tripled among teens ages 12 to 18. In 2012, 28.5% of Caucasian youth ages 2-19, 32.5% of African American youth, and 38.9% of Latino youth were overweight or obese. If we are going to turn around the youth obesity trends in this country, addressing advertising and marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to kids is going to have to be part of the equation.

You might wonder why the issue of food advertising and marketing and its impact on youth health is of concern to the American Cancer Society.  It's estimated that 1/3 of all cancers are associated with nutrition and physical activity factors, including extra weight.  And according to Centers for Disease Control, children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults - thus putting them at risk for developing obesity-related cancers when they are adults. The cancer death rate has been declining since the early 1990s, and we want to see that trend continue.  Therefore, efforts to help children establish lifelong healthy behaviors - like eating well and being physically active - are important to the mission of the American Cancer Society.

The reality is that some progress has been made in reducing advertising and marketing of high-calorie, high-sugar, and low-nutrient foods and beverages to kids.  But not enough progress has been made. A number of companies participate in the Council of Better Business Bureau's Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), which has set voluntary standards for advertising and marketing to kids, but even then, there are loopholes. For example, member companies pledging to market only healthier fare to kids still placed 46 million ads for sugar-sweetened beverages on kids' websites in 2013.

Much work to date has focused on establishing standards for the nutritional quality of foods and beverages advertised and marketed to youth, but less attention has been paid to defining what actually constitutes advertising and marketing practices that target youth. Because of that, many children remain vulnerable to current industry marketing practices and tactics.  Existing definitions of marketing to kids do not address the wide range of new digital and interactive media currently used to reach kids; definitions for marketing in schools do not include middle and high schools; child-directed marketing definitions to do not include child- and youth-targeted product packaging, in-store promotions, and toy premiums.

A new report released today, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research Program Recommendations for Responsible Food Marketing to Children  can help change that.  The report, which American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network policy experts participated in the development of, provides a comprehensive set of recommendations for food marketing practices directed toward children - all which are designed to help close major loopholes in current voluntary standards that leave our children unprotected from negative advertising and marketing influences.

Key recommendations have been made that can change the way the industry talks to children and influences their eating choices. Our news article explains all of them, and why they'll make a difference. 

It's been suggested that because of unhealthy diets and physically inactive lifestyles - and the resulting impact on overweight and obesity -- this generation of youth will live shorter and less healthy lives than their parents.  The advertising and marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages is contributing to this devastating projection.  As parents, as health professionals, and as concerned citizens, we need to speak up and take action. Food and beverage companies must be encouraged to strengthen their policies on food marketing to children. Companies not participating in the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative should be urged to join.  Companies should establish more responsible policies for marketing to children that close loopholes and ensure that youth are not regularly exposed to unhealthy food and beverage ads and other forms of marketing. In addition, school districts should update their local school wellness policies to only allow foods and beverages meeting science-based nutrition standards to be sold in K-12 schools.  While the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed regulations to this effect, school districts do not need to wait for federal policy to be finalized to update and strengthen their own policy.

Be an advocate for children's health. Demand that companies market their products more responsibly by writing to them and calling them out on social media.

But you can work at home for healthier children, too. Speak up at your kids' schools.  Be aware and mindful as you walk down the aisles at your grocery store.  Turn off the television, and limit screen time. 

It takes a village.  We can make a difference. This generation, and those to come, are counting on us.

 

Doyle is managing director of healthy eating active living environments (HEALE) for the American Cancer Society.

New healthy living guidelines for cancer survivors

April 26, 2012

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD


In my work at the American Cancer Society, when I talk with people who've been diagnosed with cancer, they tend to ask me 3 things: what can I do to reduce the chance that my cancer will come back? What can I do to help me not develop some other kind of cancer? How can I help my family members reduce their own risk for developing cancer?


For many years, answering questions 2 and 3 was a cinch.


We've known for years that for people who don't smoke, the most important ways to reduce their risk of cancer are to strive to be at a healthy weight, live a physically active lifestyle, eat a diet made up mostly of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and watch how much alcohol is consumed (if any, at all).  As a matter of fact, a recent study published by ACS researchers showed that non-smokers who most closely followed those recommendations had a significantly lower risk of premature death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all causes when compared to people who followed the guidelines least closely.


So giving advice about how to reduce their risk of developing another type of cancer and providing information to pass on to their own family members was pretty easy, because that data has been around for many years.


Answers about how to reduce the risk of recurrence were not as clear. But they've recently gotten clearer. More...

Filed Under:

Colleen Doyle | Survivorship

Heart Healthy Foods Your Whole Body Will Love

February 09, 2012

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

 

Love is in the air - and not just because Valentine's Day is right around the corner. It's also National Heart Month - a time to show our hearts a little love, and do what we can to reduce our risk heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.


Fortunately, there are things we can put in our cereal bowls, lunch boxes and dinner plates every day that can help reduce our own risk for developing heart disease. Not only that, a lot of these things can also be part of a healthy diet that can also reduce your risk of developing a variety of types of cancer. A two-for-one! Now who wouldn't love that? More...

ACS Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines Evolve

January 10, 2012

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD


Today, the American Cancer Society released its 2012 Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity Cancer Prevention. Based on sound science and strong evidence, our best advice to the general public to help reduce their risk of cancer through nutrition and physical activity is to:

  • achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life
  • adopt a physically active lifestyle
  • consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods
  • limit consumption if you drink alcoholic beverages


As a matter of fact, for the majority of us who don't smoke, these are the most important ways to reduce cancer risk. More...

Jump on the 'bran wagon' for better health

November 03, 2011

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD


It may be time to jump on the "bran wagon," if you're not already on it.

 

In a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers report that eating a high fiber diet reduces the risk of dying at an early age from a variety of causes, including heart disease, respiratory and infectious diseases, and among men, cancer.

 

During a 9-year study looking at diet and health, more than half a million AARP members between the ages of 50 and 71 completed a survey about their eating habits. Those who reported eating the most fiber (about 30 grams a day for men, and 26 grams a day for women) were 22% less likely to die from any cause during the study compared to those consuming the least amount (about 13 grams for men and 11 grams for women). More...

Beating Lunchbox Boredom the Healthy Way

September 13, 2011

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD


I read a recent study from a group of Harvard researchers who wanted to determine what foods and/or beverages are most likely to cause that slow and steady weight gain that many of us see over time as we get older - those things we eat or drink that may contribute to the number on our scale inching up ever so slightly year after year.


Interestingly enough, what topped the list were potato chips, potatoes (especially french fries), sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats (think hot dogs).  And that got me thinking about my kids and what they eat at school. More...

Filed Under:

Colleen Doyle | Diet/Exercise

From the Pyramid to the Plate

June 02, 2011

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD


Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled a new graphic, a new icon designed to help make it easier for all of us to eat a healthier diet.  Called "MyPlate," this icon replaces the Food Guide Pyramid that, in one form or another, has been around since 1992. And it is a huge improvement. Especially because we eat off plates, not pyramids. More...

Another Reason to Have a Second Cup of Coffee?

May 25, 2011

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

I admit it; I'm a java junkie. I LOVE my morning (and mid-morning) cups of coffee.  So any study that looks at the potential health benefits of coffee gets my adrenaline pumping, whether I'm revved up on caffeine or not.


A study just published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute looked at whether or not coffee consumption was related to prostate cancer risk. The researchers were particularly interested in whether or not coffee consumption reduced the risk of advanced prostate cancer (by advanced, they mean that the cancer has spread beyond the prostate at the time of diagnosis).  As a matter of fact, this study is the first of its kind looking specifically at the relationship between coffee consumption and advanced prostate cancer.  While prostate cancer is one cancer I don't need to personally worry about, on behalf of all the men in my life, I took a look. More...

'May' We Talk about Getting Healthier?

May 10, 2011

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

 

I just heard on the radio the other day that spring is more than halfway over. Before we know it, the year will be halfway over - and at that point, I always like to reflect back on the last six months, think about those resolutions I set at the beginning of the year, and see how I'm doing. It's a time for me to take stock, get real, and get back on track if need be.

 

At the beginning of the year, I did a little research to see just how popular setting New Year's resolutions is. According to surveys, about 50% of us will make some kind of resolution. And likely, those resolutions will be related to eating better, being more active, and losing weight.

More...

Hot dog! Headlines Can Be Deceiving.

March 31, 2011

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD


Did you hear the one about the hot dog and the rotisserie chicken? Recent news reports suggest that, at least when it comes to cancer, the hot dog may be the better choice.


But don't reach for the mustard and relish just yet.


Researchers at Kansas State University, with funding in part from the American Meat Institute and the National Pork Board Check-off, tested the heterocyclic amine (HCA) levels of a variety of popular ready-to-eat meat products: hot dogs, deli meats, bacon, pepperoni and rotisserie chicken. HCAs are chemicals that are formed in meats when they are cooked at very high temperatures. Studies show that these chemicals can damage DNA and cause cancer in animals. It's not clear how much they may contribute to cancer risk in people. Even so, the American Cancer Society recommends cooking meats with methods that create fewer HCAs, such as baking or poaching.

More...

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