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Food Placements in Movies Help Fuel Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Researchers say that food product placements in movies tend to promote high calorie and low nutrient foods and that kids and teens may be unduly influenced by these placements.

Lisa Sutherland, Ph.D. of Dartmouth Medical School led a team of researchers in investigating how movie food placements compared to television food advertisements aimed at children and in studying the likely impact of these placements.

Sutherland explained the need for such research by stating that the diet consumed by American children has been worsening for 20 years, saying, "The current situation in the United States is very serious in terms of the health of our children, and we have to look seriously at all of the factors that may be contributing to it, including the impact of product placements in movies."

The problem:

  • 1% of children consume a daily diet that conforms to the recommendations in the USDA food pyramid
  • Less than 20% of teens eat enough vegetables daily, and more than 80% consume too much fat each day
  • Children aged 6 to 11 are twice as obese as they were 20 years ago, and adolescents aged 12 to 19 are three times as obese as they were 2 decades past

Sutherland found that both TV food ads and movie food placements aimed at children were primarily for high calorie foods, but that TV ads tended to be for sugary snacks and cereals, and movie placements were often for sugary drinks, such as soda pop.

Sutherland argues that based on previous study evidence that shows that TV ads do influence the eating preferences of children and teens that movie food placements likely do likewise. Additionally, studies done on smoking and alcohol use show clearly that young people who view such behaviors in film are more likely to try these smoking and drinking in real life.

Although many companies have pledged to restrict food advertising aimed at children, children and teens are still exposed to considerable ‘junk’ food advertising. In film the 6 companies that commission a whopping 45% of all food placements are:

  1. PepsiCo
  2. Coca-Cola
  3. Nestle USA
  4. McDonald's
  5. Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group
  6. Burger King.

The full results of the study can be read in the current edition of Pediatrics.

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