Obesity

New Study on Kids, Ads, & Obesity Says Same Thing in Mildly Different Way

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The American Academy of Pediatrics journal Pediatrics has published a new study by one of its members, Victor Strasburger, MD*, that urges a total ban on so-called junk-food ads targeting children. His rationale:

[A]ds for junk food and fast food increase kids' desire for these foods. Studies also have shown that snacking increases while watching TV or movies. And late-night screen time can interfere with sleep, which puts kids at higher risk for obesity.

If the first point is true, then ads for toys increase desire for toys, ads for books increase desire for books, ads for diapers increase the desire to read this study, and only parents buy these things for kids. If the first point above was absurd, the second and third points are so flimsy as to need no refutation.

Naturally, this inanity seems to have gained traction from the usual corners. Today's N.Y. Post cites noted food scold and Yale anti-obesity advocate Kelly Brownell in support of the ban. Brownell laments the so-called "massive marketing of the worst foods, even to children under age 5." He calls it "toxic and until it stops there is little hope of dealing with obesity."

I'm willing to wager that no four-year-old in this country has ever worked to earn a few dollars and gone to the store with that money to buy a box of Cocoa Puffs. It's never happened. Parents in this country buy foods for young kids. Period. End of story. And Brownell is completely wrong to suggest otherwise. If I'm wrong, I urge Brownell to please correct me here.

Unfortunately the thinkers over at Time have taken the bait:

[A] Japanese study found that children who watched more TV at age three were more likely to be overweight at age six.

The culprit: advertising for unhealthy foods.

This whole tired argument is really nothing new at all. The FTC itself was pushing this same agenda in the 1970s, with the backing of groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

*You may know Strasburger as a Harvard-trained MD. You probably don't know him as author (PDF) of the 1974 "comic novel" Rounding Third and Heading Home, which "introduces a virginal 17-year-old named Carter Philips, hard-pressed to cope with the problems of life and love."

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128 responses to “New Study on Kids, Ads, & Obesity Says Same Thing in Mildly Different Way

  1. I’ve never been fat and watched plenty of TV in my youth. So why the need for unconstitutional restrictions on advertising? I’m sure I’m not the only one who was able to resist this evil corporate advertising and all that unhealthy Southern food that my parents forced me to eat.

    1. 5’7″ 152 lbs. Same as when I was a NCAA Division I gymnast in the 70’s.

      Watched a shit-load of TV as a kid.

      1. wow. huge props to Pip, if true. i’ve trained with a lot of gymnasts and imo they are the some of the best athletes in the world of sports. amazing toughness, kinesthetic awareness, flexibility, etc.

        1. Yes, it’s true. My team won Nationals my freshman year.

          1. And don’t even get me started on women gymnasts:

            http://www.google.com/search?t…..7l1.6.5l12

            1. especially women gymnasts. some of the best strength athletes i’ve trained with come from gymnastics background e.g. melanie roach (pound for pound strongest american woman ever) and ashley perkovich (up and coming junior). also, iirc tara knott, the last american to win a gold medal in olympic weightlifting was a former gymnast

            2. And don’t even get me started on women gymnasts

              No no, go on. Please.

              1. i’d like to start on several women gymnasts. and pole vaulters. and…

            3. Also, Ballerinas Vs Gymnasts, discuss.

        2. just do each other already!

          1. For the record,I still hate the fucking police.

            1. which, sadly, colors your analysis. having such a prejudice means you can’t ever look at cop force etc. cases objectively.

              if i hate X, i cannot be objective about X.

              you could always do the love the sinner, hate the sin thing, pip e.g. “i hate police misconduct, but i love that dreamy dunphy!”

            2. What does that have to do with anything? Were you afraid somebody was going to mistake you for Gymkata?

              1. I just wanted to make it perfectly clear that dunphy and I are not an item.

                1. pip, methinx you doth protest too much. denial aint just a river in egypt

                  1. Wait… dunphy’s po-po? Totally missed that fact.

                    1. Yup. And he has NEVER seen a fello officer commit a crime. I’d do a search, but I’m almost out the office door.

                  2. Pip = Dunphy’s alt-handle. He’s an imaginary construct of Dunphy’s perfect man; older (so he has experience, and is presumably a more gentle lover), and a gymnast, very in-shape.

                    I do a similiar thing with my invented boyfriend, Sugarfree.

                    1. Pip likes this. (pretty funny)

                    2. although my perfect man wouldn’t be a gymnast. they tend to be short and have scrawny legs

      2. I was in that yimnist stuff when I was little. I dropped out when I realized its gay.

    2. More to the point, we now have a problem with obese babies. How early did they have to watch TV? Got a flat screen in the womb? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40…..tudy-says/

      Considering kids that young are still mostly on formula, commercials, sloth and gluttony would seem to have little to do with it. Sounds like infant formula has problems for the human body that’s a reflection of the problems in modern dietary advice.

  2. I was constantly saving my money to…..go to the record store and play Gradius while listening to old punk records and new, new wave shit.

    My mom wouldn’t even buy us Super Golden Crisps no matter what that fucking cartoon bear told us.

    1. Hell, man, I was getting turned down for it when it was still Super Sugar Crisps.

  3. Great shot of Nick before he discovered the slimming effects of black leather.

    1. Stop spelling my name wrong!

    2. Alternate alt-text: “Slow down, Tubby… You’re not on the moon yet!”

  4. I did not know Strasburger as either an MD or as a comic novel author. Unfortunately, I now know him as both. Fortunately, I will soon forget it.

    What gets me though is not just that this is bad policy, but bad policy based on bad science. Lipid hypothesis delenda est!!

    1. What gets me though is not just that this is bad policy, but bad policy based on bad science.

      I’d say this is progressive policy based on whatever is convenient.

  5. Rounding Third and Heading Home

    And this fingerbanging and immanent humping was all available to Carter Phillips because he wasn’t a fatty fat fat fat who watch too many cartoon. Carter was out there hustling trim every. damn. day. not stuffing his face with Pop-Tarts and Doritos.

    1. I totally want to read the fingerbanging comic. Comedy, tragedy and a heartwarming happy ending are all but guaranteed.

      1. The used copies an Amazon are all over $30. It’s a cherished momento of an adolescence well-spent to many, it seems.

  6. I’ll have you know by age four I was already putting in a 40-hour work week. And I wasn’t burning my paycheck on snack food. It was all hookers and blow, and I didn’t need any ad to tell me life was better with those things. And they’ll keep you in shape, too.

    1. And

      it

      was

      uphill

      to

      school…

      both

      ways.

      1. Oh, wait, I reversed that. By age 40 I was putting in a four hour work week. But the hookers and blow part was true.

        1. Hence all the time you spend posting here…

          1. Are you accusing me of not paying enough attention to my whores?

            1. That’s between you and them, man. I guess as long as you’re paying, they’re happy.

              1. Meh

                1. I told you, it’s not my fault. It’s all that coke.

      2. I attend an M.C. Escher art school.

        1. I tried auditng a class at one of those schools once, a few years ago – and I STILL can’t find the effing EXIT!!! HELLLLLP!!!

  7. Is this Baylen Linnekin a real person, or was that name some kind of auto-generated anagram that Reason uses when they run short on staff?

    And why do I feel like someone has already asked this question?…

    1. Nanny Bill Keen I

      I’d use a pen name too.

      1. You think HE’S bad, Bill Keen II is ten times the nanny his old man was.

        1. I thought I was being all slick, but it was Bill Keane that does (did?) the Family Circus drek.

          1. I thought it was Bil Keane; a point on which Wikipedia agrees.

  8. I swear I post this every time one of these stories comes up, but I came up with this crazy experiment when my almost-5-year-old daughter first asked me to buy her something at the store…

    I said no.

    The result? She occasionally, though infrequently, asks us to buy her stuff she sees in the store or on TV. I usually answer with “no” or “ask for it for Christmas/your birthday.” She responds, “O.K.,” and life goes on.

    If only I had an M.D. from Yale, maybe I could get MY study published.

    1. Anecdotal evidence means NOTHING!

    2. Step 1: Say no!
      Step 2: Appeal to authority (Because I said so.)
      Step 3: Slap the little fucker.
      Step 4: Repeat Step 3 as needed.

      1. Step 1: Say no.
        Step 2: Tell them when they make the money, they can decide how it gets spent.
        Step 3: Move on.

        1. Step 3: Move on Follow through with your leg sweep.

  9. 1)[A] Japanese study found that children who watched more TV at age three were more likely to be overweight at age six.
    2) ???
    3) Profit!

    4) The culprit: advertising for unhealthy foods.

    I tried to fill in part of the Grand Canyon sized gap in that logical leap.

  10. there is one reason and one reason only why we see/would see an explosion of obesity in kids.

    PARENT FAILURE

    1. air conditioning.

      1. (whisper…) PLASTIC!

        1. (Top of Lungs) TASTE THE RAINBOW!

    2. i thought it had to do with food deserts

      1. I thought it was food desserts.

      2. food deserts? like at fat camps? Maybe there’s oil there…

        i always remember that “dessert” refers to ice cream because it has two “s”es and you always want more ice cream

        1. food deserts? like at fat camps? Maybe there’s oil there…

          Soylent Petrol? Soylent Gold? We gotta trademark this quick.

  11. [A]ds for junk food and fast food increase kids’ desire for these foods.

    Unless these children are independently wealthy, then someone with money is buying the junk food for them. Perhaps this purveyor of junk food, usually a parental figure of some sort, should be penalized for caving into a child’s demands?

    I wish I could empathize, but my parental figures would pop me one, or threaten to, if I got too insistant for junk food or anything else.

    1. Perhaps CPS should be called when a parent makes junk food available to a kid. They certainly would be called if a parent popped their kid one.

  12. ‘a total ban on so-called junk-food’

    Good luck on that one. What about Organic Junk Food? There’s plenty of that shit for sale. Is everything FritoLay makes junk food? Are homemade cookies junk food?

    What a loser.

    1. It has evaporated cane juice in it, not sugar! It’s totally healthy, moron.

    2. Do vegans eat anything other than junk food?

  13. If the first point is true, then ads for toys increase desire for toys, ads for books increase desire for books, ads for diapers increase the desire to read this study, and only parents buy these things for kids.

    I see what you did thar…

  14. See, the thing is, no one is in control of their own actions. Children are programmed by teh corporashuns to demand vats of lard-soaked sugar pucks, and are powerless to resist. Parents, in turn, cannot resist the demands of their children. No one is capable of either independent thought or action. Only proper counter-programming from on high can save society. We should be grateful.

    1. Lard Soaked Sugar Puck just sounds dirty.

    2. Call ’em what you want, Ding Dongs are the shit (though the ones wrapped in foil are infinitely better than the ones wrapped in the white plastic).

    3. the sad thing is this sounds exactly like chomsky. without the big words used for effect, of course

    4. Sadly those sugar pucks are soaked with vegetable oil.

  15. No, wait! We should ban TV because kids get fat on the couch instead of exercising. No wait! Couches cause obesity, ban them! No wait…

    Progress.

    1. Fuck that! That’s not enough progress. We need to ban kids. In eighteen years our childhood obesity problem is solved.

      1. Three generations of fatties is enough.

      2. We need to ban kids. In eighteen years our childhood obesity problem is solved.

        You might need to run those Social Security solvency projections again though.

  16. I watched TV when I was a kid, in an era when the hype of junkfood/sugary cereal was much more blatant than today (Christ, we had whole shows that were little more than infomercials for that crap). I was also thin as a rail – because my father would come in every day from work, and say things like, “Get your ass off that couch, get out and get some sun.” So I would. Bottom line: parents gotta start parenting…

    1. i attribute my childhood fitness to street wiffleball

      1. Fag.

  17. Here’s the thing. It is unrealistic to imagine that all parents do the responsible thing and not buy their kids whatever they want. Any policy should expect some level of irresponsibility and take that into account.

    Given children are not direct consumers, as the article notes, it seems reasonable to restrict advertising to the actual consumers: parents. Targeting kids just makes the job of a parent that much more difficult. Companies with products for children can still advertise; they just get to target parents instead.

    1. no, it’s not “reasonable” at all. the burden is and should be on parents to control what their kids eat. we need not restrict speech.

      furthermore, junk food per se is not the problem. overindulgence in same combined with lack of physical activity is.

      lots of kids eat SOME junk food and do just fine. my nephews and nieces are an example. they do martial arts, volleyball, etc. as well as just plain play outside. they eat a pretty healthy diet, but also eat SOME junk food and are perfectly fine.

      i happened to have parents/grandparents who were just short of health food nuts, but even they realized occasional junk is ok. when i came home from x-country in high school, i would sometimes eat a quart of ice cream. big #$# deal.

      no kid is ruined by eating some junk food. it’s all about proportion as well as activity

      1. no, it’s not reasonable at all. the burden is and should be on parents to control what their kids eat.

        To be honest I’m not overly concerned about McDonald’s Corporation’s right to advertise to children. I don’t feel my civil liberties are noticeably abridged when the manner in which a particular industry can advertise is regulated. In any case, the burden ultimately falls to parents regardless of whether regs are in place. If we know ahead of time that the advertising results in a non-insignificant percentage of parents to act irresponsibly who would not have done so in the absence of the advertising then restricting it represents a net benefit to everyone but the fast food industry.

        furthermore, junk food per se is not the problem. overindulgence in same combined with lack of physical activity is.

        I fully agree. And yet when you have a significant number of parents allowing their kids to over-indulge on fast-food (and thereby become obese), presumably because they’re too lazy to resist “demand” from their kids (which is largely created by advertising targeted at them), it’s hard to argue fast food (and sodas, etc.) isn’t at least a significant part of the problem.

        1. To be honest I’m not overly concerned about McDonald’s Corporation’s right to advertise to children.

          “Congress shall make no law…” you illiterate swine.

          1. I didn’t say, “McDonald’s Corporation has no constitutional right to advertise to children.”

            I said, “I’m not overly concerned about McDonald’s Corporation’s right to advertise to children.”

            1. At first they came for Ronald McDonald, but I didn’t give a shit because their happy meal toys sucked..

              1. granted, what san fran did is even worse. they just outright banned happy meals.

        2. “I fully agree. And yet when you have a significant number of parents allowing their kids to over-indulge on fast-food (and thereby become obese), presumably because they’re too lazy to resist “demand” from their kids (which is largely created by advertising targeted at them), it’s hard to argue fast food (and sodas, etc.) isn’t at least a significant part of the problem.”

          What other “parts” of the problem does the government need to regulate then?

          1. I can’t think of any that would be feasible and/or effective.

        3. I have to believe you are concern-trolling here.

          It’s really very simple to me.

          The statement “McDonald’s food tastes good and if you come to our restaurant you will eat it and like it!” is a true statement, at least when directed to me or my kid.

          I am thin and have low blood pressure and my kid is my virtual clone.

          Therefore, when McDonald’s runs an ad – any ad, really – promoting their product, they are:

          1. Making a true statement.
          2. Supplying product information to consumers who won’t be harmed by that product in any way (me and my kid, if nobody else).

          Therefore, you are proposing that McDonald’s be constrained in their true communications with consumers who won’t be harmed by their product in any way and will only benefit from it – because there are fat bags of shit in the world.

          Fuck those fat bags of shit, and fuck you.

          1. It never ceases to amaze me the level of verbal abuse I get in comments section here. Sure we disagree. Oddly, though, participants here are drastically more likely to resort to verbal abuse than, say, folks at the Volokh Conspiracy or Frum Forum. And it’s not like those guys disagree with me any less than you do. I’m left to conclude that for some unknown reason the Reason blog just attracts an inordinate amount of assholes.

    2. It is unrealistic to imagine that all parents do the responsible thing and not buy their kids whatever they want.

      And this is your problem, how?

      Given children are not direct consumers, as the article notes, it seems reasonable to restrict advertising to the actual consumers: parents.

      Let me guess, *you* don’t need your advertising restricted, just those lazy fucks next door, right?

      1. PUBLIC HEALTH!!!111!!ONE

      2. And this is your problem, how?

        I’m on the hook to pay for the additional health care costs created by rampant obesity even if I am not myself obese. Even in the absence of Medicare/Medicaid I still pay in the form of higher insurance premiums.

        Let me guess, *you* don’t need your advertising restricted, just those lazy fucks next door, right?

        Actually I would like to have my (or rather my son’s) advertising restricted. It’s one of the reasons he only gets to watch PBS. (Thanks Corporation for Public Broadcasting!)

        1. I should clarify that first point. The reason I’m willing to support regulation of advertising is that it’s a fairly minor concession. I would not, for instance, support banning fast food altogether. That’s because, as another poster pointed out, the stuff isn’t toxic. It’s just bad when not consumed in moderation. Regulating advertising doesn’t abridge one’s ability to consume the stuff. It doesn’t even abridge one’s right to over-consume.

          1. Regulating speech is in violation of the 1st amendment.

            1. Okay. Though corporate personhood has been a matter of debate in the courts.

              1. Never mind people own it, run it, work it, etc. A corporation is a veil, a legal device to limit liability.

        2. I’m on the hook to pay for the additional health care costs created by rampant obesity even if I am not myself obese.

          Jesus Christ. I bet the Obama administration fucking salivates every time they see shit like this.
          So, since your civil liberties (which apparently entail cheap health care) have been restricted by a elected officials, you should restrict the activities of others instead of repeal the law?

          1. Let’s not go after the people responsible for putting you in that conundrum or anything..

            1. Even in the absence of government health care subsidies a fatter and sicker U.S. populace hurts my (and everyone else’s) bottom line.

              No, I don’t think “cheap health care” is a civil liberty. I have no “right” to cheap health care. On the other hand, if regulating the advertising of the fast food industry makes everyone healthier and wealthier at very little “cost” in terms of personal freedom, then it seems like an idea worth considering.

              1. Fuck off, slaver.

                1. Classy!

    3. Can you describe your objective method to determine what advertising is targeted at children and what is targeted at adults?

      1. Can you describe your objective method to determine what advertising is targeted at children and what is targeted at adults?

        Sure. An ad is targeted at children if both the following are true:

        1. It advertises a product that is purchased chiefly for use by children,

        2. It appears in the context of programming whose audience is primarily children.

        Alternately:

        1. If, when a sufficiently large random sample of adults are shown the advertisement and subsequently asked “Does this advertisement targeting children?”, a majority answer “yes” then the ad is considered to target children.

        1. You want to know why I do everything I can to kick the bottom out of the bucket of social amity in the US, and why I do everything I can to promote a poisonous attitude of hatred and the absence of community?

          Fuckers like this.

          That’s the hidden externality you don’t perceive. Nanny state liberals are such scum that the hatred you generate among people who actually, you know, want to live in a society of free individuals makes the skies darken just that much more.

          If I saw you lying in the street on fire I wouldn’t piss on you to put it out.

          1. Agree. Of course he’s a Texas longhorn, so expect fuckers from that school to spout idiotic shit like that.

  18. Turn off the tee-vee and GO THE FUCK OUTSIDE.

    OK, where’s my million $ grant?

    1. you are not allowed to use the word “fuck” in regards to children. see the ‘go the fuck to sleep’ thread.

      say “fiddlesticks”

      of course, i recommend this to SPD as well. several of their officers received multiple week suspensions for DARING to swear at some MS-13 gang members after the gangsters refused to comply with demands on a traffic stop AND made threats towards the officers

      swearing is just ICKY!

  19. Which is why my public health education initiative will focus on eliminating childhood obesity by training kids on how to bully the fat kids. It’s not just a game anymore; it’s becoming a lifetime skill.

  20. They’re not “your” kids anymore.

    1. You go girl! It takes a village.

      1. I’ve seen the villagers. I don’t want them anywhere near my kids.

        1. I think someone need to take another look at the historical accuracy of the “Village Idiot” concept. I get the feeling that was really just the term for libertarian back then. It’s the only thing that makes sense, since one idiot per village is totally impossible based on my experience with humans.

  21. When we were still allowed to have children work 16 hours a day in the salt mines, they were skinny as fuck.

    1. Now this, this is progressive thinking.

  22. It’s hard to believe that fat kids who sit around eating all day and never get any exercise end up fat because of the ads they see…

    …but what’s even harder to believe is that parents who currently refuse to stop stuffing their tub o’ lard children with junk food–will stop because their children stop seeing ads for junk food.

    You know what I think is partially to blame? The war on bullies.

    Back in the day? It used to be that fat children were constantly ridiculed. Sure, some of them who had completely irresponsible parents would continue to stuff their fat faces anyway–but a lot of them didn’t!

    If you want kids to stop stuffing their fat blood type Ragu gullets with junk food? Instead of pulling advertising for junk food they should put out more ads targeting these fat kids!

    Totally making fun of fat people! Call them fatsos–which is what they are. Oh, and we should all take it upon ourselves to ask parents of fat kids why their children are so disgustingly fat! Ask ’em–don’t they care about their children at all?

    Seriously. Shame is a perfectly libertarian solution to all sorts of problems. Like when you see a lard-ass bringing donuts to work for everyone to share?

    Shame is the answer.

    1. Shame is a perfectly libertarian solution to all sorts of problems. Like when you see a lard-ass bringing donuts to work for everyone to share?

      Why would you shame them for sharing? Don’t you like donuts? Would you prefer he eats them all by himself and gets even lardier?

      1. It’s a pathetic attempt to make lard-asses feel better about stuffing their fat faces.

        I feel so guilty about eating this doughnut because I’m so fat–what can I do?

        Fatso could:

        A) Not eat doughnuts

        B) Bring doughnuts to share with everyone at work–because when everyone else is eating doughnuts, fatso maybe won’t feel so bad about eating them.

        Which of the following is the libertarian solution?

        A) Prohibit companies from marketing doughnuts or people from bringing doughnuts to work.

        B) Ken Shultz making fun of fat people for stuffing their faces with doughnuts.

        This is the same dynamic at work in attempts to prohibit companies from marketing junk food.

        Violating the First Amendment isn’t about to help fat sloppy kids whose parents who don’t care about them or their health anyway…

        And total complete perfect ridicule can be a highly effective means of behavioral change. People want to fit in! By dissuading people from making fun of fat people–we’ve made fat people socially acceptable.

  23. But if these ads are so successful at generating commerce, wouldn’t banning them be bad for the economy and reduce tax revenues further? We’re all in this together aren’t we? Don’t we need to balance the budget, for the children, so they aren’t stuck with an even larger national debt to repay? Doesn’t the stress of worrying about that date impair their health, and pass the costs along to all of us? Hmmm?

  24. Have you ever tried simply turning off the TV, sitting down with your children, and hitting them?

  25. someone needs to write a book called “Get the Fuck Outside and Play!”

  26. He calls it “toxic and until it stops there is little hope of dealing with obesity.”

    No, what’s toxic is your “I’m helpless so I need the government to help me.” mentality.

  27. “Studies also have shown that snacking increases while watching TV or movies.”

    I wonder how many millions of taxpayer dollars were spend on the “studies” that came up with this insight.

  28. I am utterly shocked that 1) people snack while watching TV, 2) TV is sometimes a substitute for physical activity, and 3) watching TV late at night means doing something other than sleeping.

    Of course, the same is true of reading a book, but I guess busybodies finally stopped worrying about that particular technology.

  29. I’m not making an argument to block food ads for kids, but the author’s argument suffers from a bit of flimsiness itself. A kid seeing an ad for Cocoa Puffs can go to the pantry and start chowing down – not sure why the author focuses on 6-year olds’ purchasing abilities. And I ask – if running child-targeted junk food ads did not lead to increased purchases for and/or by children, would food manufacturers still be spending hundreds of millions to run them?

    1. That doesn’t matter.

      Essentially you’re complaining about the fact that the junk food ads convey a true message.

      “Our food tastes good!”

      If the kids are seeing those ads and then eating the food and liking it, then the ads are true.

      You’re declaring that you want to punish food companies for making food that people like to eat and then telling them about it.

      That’s a little bit like punishing tailors who make clothes that fit, or punishing doctors who perform operations that succeed, or punishing an airline for having on-time flights that don’t crash, etc.

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