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Focus On Well-Founded Obesity Solutions

Focus On Well-Founded Obesity Solutions

The Food Industry Group says dubious claims made by the authors of a report into children’s television watching and obesity are not helping to resolve the obesity issue.

The review of literature on the subject, commissioned by Agencies for Nutrition Action (ANA), found that watching television contributes to obesity in children because the more television children watch the more likely they are to snack while doing so.

But the authors drew the conclusion that eating more high-energy foods while watching television was caused by advertising of high fat and high sugar foods so recommended that the advertising should be banned.

Rob Bree, Executive Director of the Food Industry Group (FIG) said the link being drawn by the authors was not supported by the research.

“The literature review is a useful summary of studies relevant to the obesity problem. Given that the review is publicly funded, the ANA and PHA need to be very precise in their assessments and recommendations. This literature review was focused on the behaviour of children watching television, not on the causality of the behaviour.

“There is not one shred of evidence in the review that links television content to obesity.

“It is potentially damaging for the review’s credibility that the authors and commissioning group made the unsubstantiated leap to blame advertising,” Mr Bree said.

“Television watching is prevalent among New Zealand children but let’s not forget that only 10% of children have excessively high BMI scores - 90% do not.”

FIG has looked closely at the report and points out the following:

1. The literature review found that the more children watch television, the more likely they are to eat high-energy snack foods.
3. Do the reviewers have any actual information about why watching television enables or encourages some children to snack?
5. The report did not look into the effects of television advertising on the types of food children eat or any link to obesity.
7. The report’s own author Robert Quigley says this was not the “focus of this review.” The only reference to advertising and obesity in the report says “a number of international reports have identified marketing [our italics] as a probable cause of childhood obesity.”
9. There are also international studies that show there is no link between advertising of food and the types of food children eat. In fact many reports conclude it is the quantity of television being watched rather than the content that may be complicit in weight gain.
11. In countries where there are advertising bans, the incidence of childhood obesity has continued to rise.
13. There are restrictions in New Zealand on advertising to children which the broadcast media adhere to but the report notes that children are more likely to watch television outside of restricted advertising children’s viewing hours. Surely this is a parental responsibility issue.
“Obesity is a complex issue caused by many factors such as individual food choice, total calories consumed, parental and peer influence, lack of nutritional education and lack of physical activity.

“We are all working to the same goal – let’s all work together to take what we really have learned from this literature review to see what we need to know next to come up with well-founded solutions in the fight against obesity,” Mr Bree said.


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