Fast Food and the Risk of Childhood Obesity
The fast food industry promotes childhood obesity by manipulating the young mind, putting them at risk for health complications such as hypertension and diabetes. The super-sizing of America is been a frequently talked about subject lately. Especially since it is seem to have negative effects on the health of children and adults alike through massive consumption of fast food. Health providers and other authority figures are now concerned about children’s obesity rates shown during the past 3-4 decades.
They have now drawn a close connection between fast food and obesity and identified a childhood obesity epidemic with increased negative health factors. According to the American journal of public health, 2005 September issue, fast food retail sales in the United States have increased 900% from $16. 1 billion in 1975 to a projected $153. 1 billion in 2004, during the past 3 decades. The numbers of fast food restaurants targeting child and adolescent customers are found to be clustered around schools.
With the addicting flavors and affordability of fast food has contributed to adjusting the young minds gradually to grab the quick lunch without second thought. Apart from the many types of fast food offered inside the school cafeteria, Studies have shown the fast food restaurant outlets are multiplying around the school grounds and neighborhood. The American Journal of Public Health estimated that there are 3 to 4 times as many fast-food restaurants within 1. km from schools than would be expected if the restaurants were located around the city in a way unrelated to schools. They also reveals that the median distance between any school to the nearest fast food restaurant is only 0. 5km, which means, there is only a walk of little more than 5 mints for any kid to grab that delicious treat. Some schools in the nation have already begun the fight against the fast food epidemic, although they’re a much less percentage of the whole. The marketing strategies used by fast food brands mostly target children and adolescents.
In his book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser describes the history of child marketing explaining the concept of ‘kid kustomers’ McDonalds was the first fast food chain to direct their marketing towards kids. Schlosser explains how McDonalds took on the certain strategy from Disney, who by the time had understood the way to success is approaching the kids and who intern will attract a third party to the equation. They understood that the best way to make sales with adults was to lure the children who would keep whining until they got what they want. The ast food industry does not stop until it would possibly attract every single kid kustomer possible. Beginning with famous cartoon characters, the fast food industry started giving away free toys to children as compliment. They promoted unique collections of the current child attractions of super heroes and other toys such as stuffed animals and army troops. The constant advertising of such collector’s editions, scratch and wins, party hosting ides with fun activities and also, the building of personal play grounds with structures was and still is a major attraction strategy used by the fast food industry.
They know how to manipulate a young mind in to thinking that love and care is about giving you food that tastes so good, and giving away free toys. The sole problem is not in just the types of fast food that is served in fast food restaurants-which are obviously fatty, oily and high in sugar content-but also in the portions. The portion size was drastically increased over the past couple of decades, bringing the once ‘Large’ size portion as the now ‘small’ size and having 5 categories as small, medium, large, supersize and combo meals in the ascending order.
The trick is, every time you go for the next bigger portion, the customers are made believe that they get more for less price, in turn making the sale a worthwhile exchange. Since it is all about the visual of it, the customers tend to over look that whether it is more for less, it is all too much than what anybody needs to consume per meal. Fast food tastes best when they are fresh out of the restaurant. No matter how big the portion is, fast food can be hardly eaten as leftovers. So children have gradually trained their stomachs-adults likewise-to hold fattier, oily, sugary foods that come in super sizes.
The initial issue seemed to be just being overweight and obese, as these children who consume more fatty foods than necessary grew up to be a fat generation of adults. But now, the fast food monster has grown bigger and wilder that it brings children critical health issues at much younger ages. Children in the United States are currently considered to be facing an obesity epidemic. Overweight and obese children are diagnosed with a number of health issues such as Type 2 diabetes, Hypertension, Cholesterol and Lipid abnormalities, Hyperinsulinemia and obstructive Sleep Apnea.
In her book, Underage and Overweight, Frances M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine stated that during the 1990s, cases of diagnostic diabetes for all ages rose 33% nationwide. She also explains by 2004 diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and is the main contributor to health problems like heart disease, stroke, blindness, high blood pressure, kidney disease and amputation which occurs with increased frequency in overweight children and adolescents.
Although many fast food restaurant businesses argue that they do not serve unhealthy food to their customers, the fact remains that since the rise of fast food restaurants, the obesity epidemic has only grown alarmingly. And as mentioned before, the portion size has massively increased, contributing to this epidemic every step of the way. This is now not just a concern of individual willpower but also a fight to save the nation as a whole. Studies show that children can be brain washed to believe in anything with little incentives.
With the fast food industry being the top manipulators of children’s mind, they keep stuffing themselves with the mouth watering hamburgers, fries and shakes. Apart from these critical health problems, obesity brings in other issues to a child’s life. David Ludwig, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School has dedicated his life to researching and contributing to overweight reduction in children. He is the director of the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program at Children’s Hospital Boston, one of the largest clinics for overweight children and their parents.
In his book, Ending the Food Fight, Lundwig explains the Vicious Cycle of poor diet and inactive life style which fosters many other negative factors in between. He lays out a great picture of poor diet that resembles over eating, that lowers metabolism, resulting in sluggishness and low motivation leading to an inactive lifestyle. Once this life style is acquired, the amount of calories stored in the body increases, causes fatigue and boredom, results in low self esteem that succumbs to temptation for ‘comfort food’ which contributes again to the poor diet that started out the cycle.
He also explains in detail how obesity due to high-glycemic food intake-the type of food available at fast food restaurants-result in complications in a child in his/her Brain, Heart and blood vessels, lungs, digestive tract, hormones and also mental health. Obesity is also a key factor in most children’s self esteem and performance levels. Dr. Sylvia Rimm, a Child Psychologist and clinical professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine describes in detail the contribution of Obesity in depression and quality of life of children.
She mentions “In a nationally representative survey conducted in 1996-1998, researchers reported that more than 60% of kids ate 5 servings of food fruits and vegetables a day. Unfortunately these results were based on a broad range of vegetables that included potatoes. ” In illuminating potatoes from the vegetable group, Sylvia states, “children who consumed five servings of fruits and vegetables a day dropped to 30%. ” This means the consumption of fast food is quite often as the most popular method of potato intake is through fries and fries are often not consumed by itself.
The 30% that actually dropped was consuming 5 portions of potatoes a day. Rimm shows a wide range of analysis and research done on over weight/obese children on Self Description of Intelligence, Self-Description of Grades in School, Self-perception of Intelligence, self-deception of work ethic, Self-description of Athletic etc, of all which with ought a failure represented the obese and overweight children in the more negative side of the chart.
When childhood innocence takes a turn in emotional fields like this, it is high time that there is even greater attention be given to the issue of fast food that make unhealthy little human beings who are not only physically but also emotionally malfunctioning. To bring back attention to the facts and analysis made on the fast food industry and childhood obesity; obesity is currently exposing an unfortunate epidemic in children who consume the wrong types of food, in wrong amounts. The fast food industry promotes sales by manipulating the children’s mind with toys and other prize promotions, luring them in the friendly caring restaurants.
Children not only get to have happy meals, but they get rewarded with toys and more importantly critical health issues such as diabetes, hypertension and other heart and mental illnesses. The emotional lives of young children which is critical to having healthy physical and mental conditions in future is also subjected to being obese/overweight resulted in too much unsuitable food intake. Being from a South Asian country, I myself have faced the discomfort of fast food addiction as I grew up.
I preferred less activity and ate out more times a week than necessary and ended up with low self esteem during my high school years. I was bullied; I did not have guys who were at all interested in me or even good grades. I am just one person who went through this painful process of growing up with too much ‘tasty food. ’ But I know there are many more who are entangled in the same web. It is not easy to wake up one day and say to yourself, I’m not going to be discouraged. We need help. And if as a whole world people need to stand up for the root of the problem, fast food, then isn’t it worth the try?