Advertising and Obesity Argument
By: JD Dace
Obesity in America is a growing epidemic that has no end in sight. As a twenty-year-old college student I have done extensive research on this topic in several of my classes. I have read dozens of medical journals and newspaper articles that all agree that obesity is a huge problem in America that is only getting worse. Obesity is defined as, anyone having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater (Kaiser Foundation Par1.). Obesity is such an issue because it leads to health issues such as: heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, gallbladder disease, gallstones, osteoarthritis and gout (Kaiser Foundation par. 2). These are all health aspects that will not only follow them around for the rest of their lives, but also will probably end up shortening it significantly. Obesity is by no means an “easy fix” and will take a long time to eradicate fully in America but the amount of advertising for unhealthy food certainly isn’t helping. While obesity can be attributed to many different aspects I’m going to be focusing specifically on the effect that advertising has on obesity rates in America. The target audience that I want this argument to reach would be the parents of children in elementary schools in the hopes that they will be willing to limit the amount of exposure their children have to advertising.
I feel like this was a good argument for me to make simply because you will be hard pressed to find anyone who is more passionate about this topic than I am. When I was younger I was what you could call “overweight” and it was simply because of the fact that I ate as much fast food as I did. That is why I wanted to argue on the topic of how advertising from fast food companies really does have an affect on the obesity rates of children in America.
It’s no secret that obesity is a huge problem in America (no pun intended) but what exactly is the cause of obesity? Is it a general lack of motivation? Is it just a general lack of education on how to eat healthy? Maybe, but with all of the literature and PSA’s available to people, how can they ingest such un-healthy foods in good conscience? What I am going to argue in this paper is that it might not solely be the public’s fault for their ever-expanding waistbands. While most of us know that advertising on television has a big influence on what we buy, I’m going to focus specifically on how these ads influence obesity in America’s youth as well as show how it carries on into the later years of their life. I will now start off by giving you a background on just how prevalent childhood obesity has become in the past few years.
In recent years many health officials have become increasingly upset over the rapid increase in obesity among children living in America. According to recent statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), since the early 80’s the prevalence of overweight children ages 6-11 has more than doubled, and the rate for adolescents has tripled. Today, about 10% of 2 to 5 year olds and 15% of 6 to 19 year olds are overweight. These statistics are only for Caucasian children, when we take colored children into consideration the rates are much higher: 4 in 10 Mexican American and African American youth ages 6-19 are considered overweight or at risk of being overweight. Given the fact that 80% of obese children continue to be obese into their adulthood, the effect of childhood obesity on the nations health as well as health care costs are monumental (Kaiser Foundation). What this means is that the costs concerning childhood obesity is quite staggering especially since, as I have previously stated, obesity as a child usually carries on into adulthood.
The simple fact that the majority of the studies about children’s consumer behavior have been conducted by marketing research firms and have not been made publicly available should be a good indicator that TV ads can and do influence children’s purchases and those of their families. If we only take fast food outlets into consideration, they spend billions in television ads targeted towards children every single year.
According to an article titled, TV Advertising and its effect on children, fast food companies such as McDonalds spend $11 billion on advertising annually. They wouldn’t spend that much money if there weren’t some sort of pay back for them. What I mean is that they know that if they spend that much money on advertising aimed towards children they are going to see a significant amount of money in return. Parents of young children see the commercials, and don’t need a guy in a scientist’s coat to tell them what piles of burger’s, fries and large soft drinks can do to young bodies. But the more the industry stonewalls, the more it confirms parents’ suspicions that they cannot be trusted. Eleven billion dollars is an astounding number seeing as how the advertising for all the healthy food companies combined doesn’t even equal half of that (Chou, Rashad, Grossman). What’s even more frustrating is that these ads are specifically designed to get kids to essentially “nag” their parents into buying their product. Some people might argue that it should be up to the parents to control what exactly goes into their children’s bodies but the harsh reality is that going to a fast food restaurant is a heck of a lot easier to than having to listen to your child complain for hours. I will now move on the show you that over the same period in which childhood obesity has increased so dramatically, certain research shows that the sheer number of ads children view has taken an upturn as well.
According to an article titled, The Role of Media in Childhood Obesity, in the 1990’s as the number of cable channels increased opportunities to advertise directly to children had expanded just as much. To be more specific the most recent statistics show that children now see an average of more than 40,000 TV ads in just a single year (Kaiser Foundation). That is considerably more that was ever possible before. According to this very same article, they found that even a very brief exposure to food commercials from corporations such as McDonalds could have a significant influence on a child’s preferences. It is only until recently that researchers are beginning to document a link between watching TV and children’s consumption of fast foods and soda. To be more specific, in a recent study conducted by the CDC, they found that students in grades 7-12 who frequently ate fast food tended to watch more television than other students. Is there a tangible link between the amounts of fast foods advertisements they watch on television and their willingness to buy fast food? I’ll let you be the judge, and I hope that you are now able to make an informed choice on the topic.
I know that I am no scientist, or specialist of any kind on this on this kind of a topic, but all I can do is lay out the simple facts in the hopes that you are able to see the correlation between the amount of advertising that is out there aimed towards children and how their obesity rates are skyrocketing. However, I don’t want the lack of my credentials to be held against me because as stated earlier I have done a considerable amount of research on this topic and it has all concluded that advertising does indeed affect the choices children make when decided what food to eat.
In conclusion, what I want you to take away from the argument that I am proposing is that there is a copious amount of evidence that suggests that there is a direct correlation between how much fast food kids eat and how many fast food ads they watch on television. As well as that I know advertising might not make to huge of a dent in eradicating obesity, but it is most certainly a step in the right direction because the children are our future, and we must make them healthy in order for America as nation to have a healthy future. This is an issue that everyone needs to be concerned about, and we all need to start taking action immediately.