Childhood Obesity: Fueled by the Boob Tube

A new infographic depicts the difficulty of weaning kids off fatty snacks amid thousands of commercials.
It's tough to wean kids of junk food when they're getting the hard-sell on television. (PhotoAlto/Eric Audras/Getty Images)
Feb 13, 2012
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

Forty-four hours a week in front of the boob tube is taking its toll on American youth. Beyond keeping kids from the tried-and-true method of entertainment called playing outside, television is feeding kids approximately 30,000 ads a year, according to a new infographic released by Of the ads, 50 percent hawk candy, snacks, fast food, and sugary cereals. 

The infographic, created to support the new nutritional standards for school meals, offers a harrowing look at the obstacles to combatting chub among children.

Take eating habits, for example. American children chow down an average of three snacks each day, in addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Teens consume approximately 34 teaspoons of sugar. (By comparison, most adult women should be eating about six teaspoons of sugar a day max; for men, the magic number is nine.) Each year, consumers spend $6.5 billion on candy for Valentine's Day, Christmas, Halloween and Easter. For Halloween alone, consumers spend $2 billion. 

For kids who are already obese or overweight, resisting commercial messaging is even more difficult. They are more susceptible to junk food ads than their fit peers and will increase consumption by 134 percent.

Though new nutritional guidelines are a start, it seems the feds could make real progress by backing talk with cash. The food industry spends $1.6 billion each year marketing high-calorie, low-nutrition foods to kids, dwarfing the federal government's $51 million to market healthy eating and exercise.

The damage doesn't stop at childhood. Fifty percent of overweight children remain overweight into adulthood. 

The proof is in the pudding: it's time for change. What's being done? Check out the full infographic here to find out.

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