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How Greedy Corporations Are Making American Children Fat

Commercial Alert, March 23, 2004

The following article was published in the Nov/Dec 2003 issue of Mothering
Magazine.

http://www.mothering.com/10-0-0/html/10-6-0/fast-food.shtml

The Fast Food Trap: How Commercialism Creates Overweight Children
By Gary Ruskin

Early in the 20th century, urban squalor was emerging as an unsettling fact
of American life, and there was great concern in the US over undernourished
children. "At least one-third of all industrial families in the United
States are underfed," concluded one 1911 study of Americans' standard of
living.(1) Nervous parents measured their kids against weight and height
charts. Public health officials sounded a continuous alarm. Dr. Josephine
Baker, head of New York City's Department of Health, worried that
malnutrition was "the most serious and widespread physical defect found
among school children."(2) These concerns continued into the Great
Depression, and gave rise to the National School Lunch program, among other
measures. Combined with the general prosperity that followed World War II,
these measures were a stunning success. In 1955, a government expert wrote
that the evidence "supports the conclusion that the nation as a whole is
fairly well fed."(3)

There are still malnourished kids today. But in recent decades the
malnourishment problem has been eclipsed by an opposite one: fat kids. Kids
who eat too much and don't exercise enough. Kids, in short, who are sadly
obedient to the commercial messages that besiege them, literally, from
morning till night.

The rise of childhood obesity in America is part of a larger story: how
corporations have laid claim to children's imagination and play-to childhood
itself. In the process of redefining children as "consumers," as the open
maws at the end of a giant marketing machine, corporations have redefined as
well the nature of childhood disease. Increasingly, our children suffer not
from the results of infection or lack, but from the role the commercial
culture has assigned them-from occupational illness, one might say.

Of these occupational illnesses of childhood, obesity is probably the
greatest. Certainly it is the most apparent, as a visit to just about any
elementary school or mall will confirm. Depending on how you measure it,
between 15 and 24 percent of American children are overweight-a threefold
increase since the early 1970s.(4) "The No. 1 health problem in the United
States is not SARS," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "It is not emerging infectious
diseases. It is the epidemic of obesity that we are watching unfold before
our very eyes."(5) Adds James Hill, director of the Center for Human
Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, "If these
trends continue, within a few generations every American will be
overweight."(6)

The Tragedy of Childhood Obesity
The epidemic of childhood obesity is a tragedy for many reasons, and
portends poorly for the health of our entire nation in the coming decades.
Obese children have a low quality of life; the quality of life of severely
obese children is similar to that of kids with cancer.(7) Obese children
also have a strong predisposition to become obese adults, with a greater
likelihood of developing a battery of serious chronic diseases, including
diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and in the end, shorter life spans.

The obesity epidemic has spawned an epidemic of diabetes. The CDC recently
warned that, if current trends continue, one in three Americans born in 2000
will develop diabetes. If the CDC's predictions are correct, 45 to 50
million Americans could have diabetes by 2050, according to Dr. Kevin
McKinney, assistant professor of endocrinology at the University of Texas
Medical Branch in Galveston. "There is no way that the medical community
could keep up with that," he said.(8)

The obesity epidemic and its effects are striking younger and younger
children. Amazingly, the warning signs of strokes and heart attacks can be
detected even in children as young as two years.(9) Type 2 diabetes, once
known as "adult-onset" diabetes, now afflicts adolescents and even children.
When these children grow up, they will face complications such as
amputations, blindness, heart attacks, and kidney failure. Pediatricians
think that the rise in type 2 diabetes can be attributed almost entirely to
the obesity epidemic.

Why Childhood Obesity Came to the US
How did this happen? America is the richest nation in the world, and
therefore should be the healthiest. How has it instead concocted a new
epidemic to spread among its children? Though the forces had been gathering
for decades, they came into full bloom in the 1970s, when the trend line of
childhood obesity began to rise steeply.

There are many causes. Most children today sit too much and play too little.
They spend too much of the day riding in cars and staring at video screens.
They eat food designed for the health of corporate balance sheets rather
than the health of children's bodies. But under all of this runs the
persistent theme of how corporations have insinuated themselves into
virtually every corner of children's lives, and written the master script
for children's interactions with their own families and with society at
large.

There was a time, not that long ago, when parents decided what and when
their kids ate. Today that seems a fond memory, even nostalgia. Parents find
themselves increasingly on the defensive, fending off, deflecting,
combating, and all too often making grudging compromises with the cravings
that corporate marketers conjure in their kids. In the case of food, those
cravings generally are for things that parents wish their children didn't
want, and with good reason: almost without exception, they are foods that
might as well have been specifically designed to make kids fat.

The assault began after World War II, but not until the 1970s did its
physical effects on children began to become unmistakable. It was then that
the marketing itself reached a point of critical mass. The corporate
redefining of childhood employed four main tools: television, the marketing
of junk food, the commercial takeover of the schools, and the starvation of
the public sector. These invasions of children's lives took place at a time
when children were increasingly vulnerable because their parents were
working more, and there were more single-parent families and less
supervision at home.

Television and Obesity
Television literally is an obesity machine-both because of what it shows and
the way it affects children's lives. It gives advertisers a way to walk
through the front door of the home and speak directly to children. The
average American child watches 19 hours and 40 minutes of TV per week-more
than a thousand hours each year.(10) That means an annual exposure to
thousands of commercials for junk food and fast food. Then there's all the
lost playtime-during those 20 hours each week, children aren't physically
active. Medical research confirms just what you'd expect: the more TV
children watch, the more likely they are to be overweight.(11) "We are
literally living ourselves sick, and television plays a large role in this
downward spiral," wrote Mohammad N. Akhter, MD, when he was executive
director of the American Public Health Association.(12)

Not surprisingly, childhood obesity is worse in some minority communities.
Part of the reason is that African American children watch more TV on
average than do other children. African American teens watch 40 percent more
primetime TV and nearly twice as much daytime TV as other teens.(13) They do
so in part because they are more likely to live in places where it's unsafe
to play in the park or the street. They also often receive less adult
supervision, which means more opportunities for corporate marketers to
intrude on their lives. And kids who have the least are the most
impressionable, because they naturally hunger for what they lack. That
means, among other things, burgers, fries, chocolate shakes, and soft
drinks.

It is no dark mystery to parents that ads have an effect. Even the cautious
federal science bureaucracy has acknowledged this to some degree. For
example, back in 1977, the National Science Foundation concluded that
advertising is "at least moderately successful" in creating "desire for the
products advertised."(14) When junk-food companies realized the power that
TV marketing has over children, they invested heavily in it; the resultant
rise in the marketing of junk foods was coextensive the rise in childhood
obesity.

What is noteworthy-and utterly revealing-about advertising to children is
that it almost always is for things most parents would not themselves choose
for their kids, especially in regard to food. Turn on Saturday-morning TV:
How many ads do you see for nutritious foods? In 1978, the Federal Trade
Commission concluded that "The largest single part of the television
advertising addressed specifically to children is for sugared foods."(15)

It has long been understood that young children are especially vulnerable to
marketing messages. "Many young children-including an apparent majority of
those under the age of eight-are so naïve," concluded the Federal Trade
Commission in 1978, that "they cannot perceive the selling purpose of
television advertising or otherwise comprehend or evaluate it and tend . . .
to view commercials simply as a form of 'informational programming.' "(16)

But even PBS helps market junk food to our youngest children. In recent
years, Teletubbies, a PBS television program targeted to toddlers, has made
cross-marketing deals with McDonald's and Burger King, both of which sell
high-calorie fast food. "Teletubbies was a great promo partner," gushed
Cindy Syracuse, then Burger King's manager for youth and family
marketing.(17 )

Marketing Junk Food and Soft Drinks to Kids
McDonald's first national ad campaign, in 1967, was an unexpectedly huge
success: 10 million kids wrote in to pick floats for Macy's Thanksgiving Day
Parade. From then it was off to the races. McDonald's advertising director
put this battle cry on his wall: "Early to bed / Early to rise / Advertise /
Advertise / Advertise."(18) Since then, McDonald's has been masterful in its
use of beloved characters to sell its high-calorie fast food. Among others,
McDonald's has employed Winnie-the-Pooh, 101 Dalmatians, Nemo, Furby,
Tarzan, and Beanie Babies to sell its Happy Meals.

Fast-food marketers such as McDonald's and Burger King have reshaped the
diets of American parents and kids, and the rise in fast-food consumption
has paralleled the boom in the incidence of childhood obesity. Between 1977
and 1995, the percentage of meals and snacks eaten at fast-food restaurants
doubled. This has been especially devastating to the health of children.
Because fast food is typically so high in sugar, fat, and calories, these
meals can quickly add pounds to a kid's waistline. In a study published in
the International Journal of Obesity, researchers found that, compared to
adolescents who did not eat at fast-food restaurants, boys and girls who ate
fast food three times in the previous week had astoundingly higher calorie
intakes: 40 and 37 percent, respectively.(19)

The increase in soft-drink consumption has been similarly damaging to
children's health. Between 1977 and 1996, soda consumption among 12 to 19
year olds increased 75 percent for boys, 40 percent for girls.(20) According
to a study in The Lancet, for each can of soda drunk each day, a child is
1.6 times more likely to become obese, all other things held constant.(21)

Soft-drink companies use every trick in the book to hook kids on their
high-sugar, caffeinated products. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have been especially
effective in marketing to children. Coca-Cola paid Warner Bros. an estimated
$150 million for global marketing rights for the film Harry Potter and the
Sorcerer's Stone.(22) "The Coca-Cola Company recognized the wealth of
possibilities inherent in [Harry Potter] for engaging the world's adults and
children," explained Brad Ball, then President of Domestic Marketing for
Warner Bros. Pictures, now Warner Bros. Entertainment. (23) Product
placement, too, is great at implanting brands in the minds of children. When
the movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial featured E.T. eating Reese's Pieces,
sales of the candy shot up 65 percent; Hershey, maker of Reese's Pieces, had
to put two factories on 24-hour production schedules to meet the demand.(24)

Product placements can now be found in nearly every medium children watch,
and have taken over commercial television. Coca-Cola has been heavily
featured in product placements on American Idol and the teen-targeted,
short-lived Young Americans, which the New York Daily News called "a slick,
thinly disguised commercial" for Coke.(25) Pepsi is featured heavily in the
WB network show Pepsi Smash, and Mountain Dew was showcased in the CBS
reality shows Survivor and Survivor II.

Product placements have even spread throughout children's books. Junk foods
now featured in children's books include Hershey's chocolates, M&M's, Froot
Loops, Reese's Pieces, Oreo cookies, and Skittles. "It's not that these
books resemble advertising-they are advertising," said Kate Klimo, vice
president and publisher of Random House Books for Young Readers.(26)

The Commercial Takeover of the Schools
Years ago, public schools used to be places where good nutrition was taught.
For example, in the 1920s, as a part of the home economics movement,
millions of schoolchildren were taught about proper nutrition, and which
foods contained the nutrients they needed to grow.(27)

To counteract this, junk-food marketers tried to invade the schools, but for
decades their presence was relatively insignificant. Still, they had some
successes. For example, a Texas Coke bottler bragged in 1931 about how "the
kids play basketball at recess on Coca-Cola goals," he wrote, "use Coca-Cola
blotters to blot out their troubles, consult a Coca-Cola thermometer, and
write their notes on Coca-Cola tablets. Can you beat that?"(28)

The curriculum of junk nutrition began in earnest in 1989, with the launch
of Channel One, an in-school TV marketing program. Chris Whittle, Channel
One's founder, had the ingenious idea of harnessing the schools to show
daily 12-minute TV broadcasts that included two minutes of ads. Since then,
Channel One, now owned by Primedia, has been adopted by 12,000 schools.
About 8 million children watch its ads for Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Hostess
Twinkies, M&M's, Snickers, and the like.

"Channel One is the most effective way that junk-food marketers have gotten
to children, because of the captive audience and the impact of watching it
with your peer group," explains Jim Metrock, president of Obligation, Inc.
According to a study by Obligation, during the past five school years, 27
percent of Channel One's ads were for junk food or soda pop.(29)

Schools have become a paradise for junk-food marketers. Vending machines
stocked with candy and soft drinks are rife: Nearly 19 out of 20 high
schools have vending machines that sell soda, while nearly 60 percent of
elementary schools do. More than 70 percent of high schools sell chocolate
candy in vending machines.(30)

Hundreds of school districts have signed marketing contracts in which a
school district promises exclusive access to Coke or Pepsi in return for
extra cash. Incredibly, these contracts often include financial incentives
for school districts to sell more Coke or Pepsi. These schools have become
soda pushers.

Nor is it only public schools that are putting themselves up for sale;
leading organizations, too, are getting into the act. The venerable National
PTA, which for more than a century has promoted the health of children, now
lists Coca-Cola Enterprises as a "proud sponsor."'

"Corporate sponsors are not new to nonprofits, but they are fairly new to
us," then-PTA President Shirley Igo told the Washington Post. "We really
need them. Our budget is very thin and if we didn't have them, we wouldn't
be able to develop new programs."(31)

Even worse, Coca-Cola Enterprises' senior vice president for public affairs,
John Downs, Jr., was recently appointed to serve as an at-large member on
the National PTA's Board of Directors. Downs is the point man for Coca-Cola
Enterprises regarding the marketing of soft drinks to kids in schools.(32)
In effect, the National PTA is now run, in part, by Coca-Cola.

Such corruption isn't limited to the National PTA. Even some dentists have
gotten their own Coke deals. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
(AAPD) recently received a $1 million contribution from the Coca-Cola
Foundation.(33) "I'm surprised that AAPD is willing to be co-opted in this
way, and for relatively little money in the scheme of things. The Academy's
leadership should resign," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the
Center for Science in the Public Interest.(34)

It's no surprise that companies will pay so much to advertise in schools.
Advertisers know that their presence in the schools can pay off for years,
if not decades, if they can hook kids for life on their products.
Schoolchildren are "a captive audience and in a world where kids are torn
between the Internet, [instant messaging], sports, TV and radio, school is
the place where marketers can find them in an uncluttered environment," said
Tom Harris, vice president of sales and marketing for the National Theatre
for Children, which helps corporations market to children in elementary and
middle schools.(35)

Fast-food companies, too, now have a big presence in the schools. It's a
great way for them to bypass parents and promote their high-fat products to
children. At least one out of every five schools now contains a fast-food
outlet.(36)

The President is AWOL
Years ago, US presidents cared about the health of American children and
strove to improve it. When he signed the National School Lunch Act into law
in 1946, Harry S Truman said that "no nation is any healthier than its
children." Later that year, Truman expanded on this theme: "The well
nourished school child is a better student. He is healthier and more alert.
He is developing good food habits which will benefit him for the rest of his
life. In short, he is a better asset for his country in every way."

You'd think that would be a sentiment that President Bush could embrace. He
is, after all, an avid athlete, a poster boy for physical fitness. He runs
three miles a day, six days a week, at an impressive pace for his age. He
lifts weights, and can bench-press five reps of 185 pounds. Again,
impressive. But the Bush Administration has done little to counter the
epidemic of childhood obesity. It is more devoted to its friends-and big
campaign donors-in the junk-food industry than it is to our kids. For
example, when the CDC launched "Verb Now," their $125 million "anti-obesity"
campaign, they chose as their partners the same big-media companies that are
pushing fatty foods and couch-potato habits on the nation's kids: AOL Time
Warner, Viacom, Primedia, and others. For their lead ad agency, the CDC
chose the Publicis Groupe's Frankel division, despite the fact that Publicis
has an advertising contract with McDonald's. Given such conflicts of
interest, it's not surprising that the campaign is ineffective. The ads are
based on the ridiculous premise that one can motivate children to exercise
by talking about grammar. Carrie McLaren, a schoolteacher who showed a CDC
ad to her students, explained that "None of the kids had any idea what the
ad was about. They guessed maybe grammar or reading or after-school
programs."

Last year, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson even urged the
junk-food lobby to wage war on those who would protect children from
obesity. He told members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) to "
'go on the offensive' against critics blaming the food industry for
obesity," according to a GMA news release.(37) GMA members include such
major junk-food companies as Coca-Cola, Mars, PepsiCo, and Philip Morris.

The Heavy Consequences of the Bush Tax Cuts
The Bush Administration has been eager to cut taxes, especially for the
wealthy, who are its most generous campaign donors. Budget deficits are up
and tax revenues are down. The net effect has been to drain federal, state,
and local governments of funds. This will likely have a big effect on our
children's waistlines.

Schools need money to keep kids thin. The national school-funding crisis
makes schools more likely to sell out to the marketers of soft drinks, junk
food, fast food, and Channel One. And when budget cuts hit a school, one of
the first things to go is physical education. Daily phys-ed classes in
grades 9 through 12 have already declined, from 42 percent in 1991 to 32
percent in 2001.(38)

Fiscal crises hurt local police, too, which in turn abets the junk-food
marketers. When police are scarce, many kids no longer have safe nearby
parks and streets to play in. Parents keep their kids indoors, gazing at the
TV and its junk-food ads.

What You Can Do
There's plenty that parents and citizens can do to stop the epidemic of
childhood obesity. Start with what you can do in your own household:
* Minimize TV watching. Put the TV set in the closet, the attic, orsomewhere
else out of the way, far from an electrical outlet.
* Don't buy soft drinks, junk food, or fast food.
If you do those two things, your kids will likely stay healthy and never
become overweight. (The same will be true for you, too, of course.)

But to stop the childhood obesity epidemic, we must get rid of the powerful
government policies that promote it. It's time for the government to side
with parents, and not with the junk-food companies who want to hook their
kids for life on their high-calorie products. "Our politicians need to find
the courage to stand up to corporations that are selling our children
shortened lives," explains Gerald Haas, MD, an assistant professor of
pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.(39) That means starting in the
schools. Most kids eat about one-quarter to one-half of their meals in
school. By improving what schools feed to children and stopping schools from
marketing junk food, we'll go a long way toward halting the childhood
obesity epidemic.

This is happening all over the country. We're winning. Parents are ridding
the schools of junk-food marketers. (See sidebar, "Recent Victories.") The
single best thing you can do is to tell your school-board members and state
legislators to implement the Childhood Obesity Prevention Agenda, which has
been endorsed by dozens of top obesity researchers and prominent public
health groups. (See sidebar, "Childhood Obesity Prevention Agenda for
States, Municipalities, and School Boards.")

You can also encourage your Congressional representative to support the
Parents' Bill of Rights (see http://www.commercialalert.org/pbor.pdf and the
January-February 2003 issue of Mothering, no. 116), which would ban
marketing to kids under 12, mandate disclosure of product placements,
require chain restaurants to put calorie and nutritional information on
labels, and revoke the tax subsidy that corporations receive for marketing
to children.

Finally, healthy kids require healthy state, school, and municipal budgets.
Those budgets buy good food for schoolchildren, hire gym teachers, build gym
facilities, and keep parks clean and safe so that kids can play outside
without their parents worrying about them.

If we're going to stop the childhood obesity epidemic, we've got to stop the
fiscal policies that are starving federal, state, and local government of
funds. That means repealing the Bush tax cuts and sending some of that money
back to the states, cities, police departments, and schools that need it.

Sidebar #1: Recent Victories

Dates in parentheses indicate when the legislation was approved or signed
into law.
* California: banned sale of junk food and soda in elementaryschools and
sale of soda in middle schools as of 1/1/04 (10/01).
* Texas: banned sale of soda, candy, and foods of minimalnutritional value
from hallways, lunchrooms, common areas duringmealtimes (4/02).
* Los Angeles: banned sale of soda in all L.A. public schools as of1/1/04
(8/02).
* Nashville: banned Channel One from Nashville public schools(9/02).
* New York City: banned candy, soda, and other unhealthy snacksfrom vending
machines, and improved school meals (6/03).
* Oakland, California: banned sale of soda, candy from Oaklandpublic schools
(12/01).
* Philadelphia: announced plan to ban sale of soda from allPhiladelphia
public-school vending machines not in faculty lounges(7/03).
* San Francisco: banned sale of soda, candy in cafeterias as of2003-2004
school year (1/03).
* Seattle: banned Channel One from Seattle public schools as of2004-2005
school year (11/01).

Sidebar #2: Childhood Obesity Prevention Agenda for States, Municipalities,
and School Boards

American children are suffering from an epidemic of obesity. In spite of
this, purveyors of junk food increasingly are able to use public schools as
a platform for their marketing campaigns. In effect, the junk-food lobby has
latched on to the compulsory school laws as a way to corral a captive
audience of impressionable children.

Parents should guide the eating habits of their kids. Corporations have no
business wedging into that relationship. Schools should support parents in
this. We are what we eat, as the old saying goes; and in this the schools
play an important part, for good or ill. Schools should encourage healthful
eating habits and exercise. They should not become marketing zones and
shopping centers in which junk-food manufacturers get open access to
impressionable children.

WE CALL ON STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN BY PROHIBITING
THE MARKETING AND SALE OF JUNK FOOD IN SCHOOLS.

Schools should help parents promote good nutrition, rather than support
junk-food companies that promote products high in added sugar and fat.

1. States, municipalities, and school boards should prohibit the marketing
of junk food on school property.
* Prohibit contracts that obligate children to watch or listen toads for
junk food on school property. An example is Channel One, anin-school TV
marketing program.
* Prohibit display of visual advertisements for junk food inschool, such as
billboards, signs, posters, and logo placements.
* Prohibit the use of corporate-sponsored curricula featuring orpromoting
junk-food products.
* Prohibit exclusive marketing ("pouring rights") contracts betweensoda
beverage companies and school districts, school food-serviceagencies, and
school groups.
Schools should make healthful food available to children.

2. States, municipalities, and school boards should ban the sale or
distribution of junk food on school property.
* Prohibit sale of junk food on school property, including, but notlimited
to, à la carte, before-school, or after-school programs,concession stands,
or vending machines.
* Prohibit the distribution of junk food as a reward or prize forgood
behavior or exemplary performance.
* Prohibit distribution of free samples of junk food on schoolproperty.
* Amend Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices statutes andordinances to
prohibit marketing of junk food to children on schoolproperty.
Schools should be rewarded for exceeding federal nutrition standards.

3. States, municipalities, and school boards should provide financial
rewards to school districts, schools, and food-service agencies that exceed
federal nutrition guidelines and obey restrictions on the sale of junk food
in schools.
* School districts and school food-service agencies should exceedthe
nutritional standards of the National School Lunch Program andSchool
Breakfast Program, especially by providing plenty of wholegrains, fresh
fruits and vegetables, fat-free dairy products, and localand organic
products, but no foods with hydrogenated vegetableshortening, and few or no
fried foods.
* School districts and school food-service agencies must strictlycomply with
the federal competitive foods rule.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have defined junk food as
"foods which provide calories primarily through fats or added sugars and
have minimal amounts of vitamins and minerals."

The Childhood Obesity Prevention Agenda is endorsed by leading scientists
and obesity experts from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Yale, and other
major research institutions, along with the American College of Preventive
Medicine, Center for a New American Dream, Center for Food and Justice,
Center for Media Education, Center for Science in the Public Interest,
Connecticut Public Health Association, Eagle Forum, Green Party of the
United States, Maryland Public Health Association, Massachusetts Public
Health Association, Michigan Public Health Association, New Mexico Public
Health Association, Organic Consumers Association, Science and Environmental
Health Network, Stonyfield Farm, and the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research
Center.

Other prominent endorsers include: Lawrence Cheskin (director, Johns Hopkins
Weight Management Center); Greg Critser (author, Fat Land); Frances Moore
Lappé (author, Diet for a Small Planet); Marion Nestle (author, Food
Politics); Peggy O'Mara (publisher and editor, Mothering magazine); Alvin
Poussaint (Harvard Medical School); Raffi (children's troubadour); Ellen
Ruppel Shell (author, The Hungry Gene); Walter Willett (Harvard School of
Public Health).

The Childhood Obesity Prevention Agenda was created by Commercial Alert.

Sidebar#3: What Defines Childhood Obesity??

Most scientists use the term overweight, rather than obesity, for children.
But the two terms are synonymous.

The most widely used definition for overweight among children is based on
the 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts for the US
for each age group.1 Overweight is defined as at or exceeding the 95th
percentile of Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a person's weight (in kilograms)
divided by the square of their height (in meters). Children considered at
risk for overweight are typically defined as at or above the 85th percentile
of BMI, but below the 95th percentile. But the definitions of obesity and
overweight among children differ in epidemiological studies.

If you know you child's height and weight, you can calculate their BMI at
the website www.keepkidshealthy.com/welcome/bmicalculator.html
<http://www.keepkidshealthy.com/welcome/bmicalculator.html> .

NOTE
1. 2000 CDC Growth Charts: United States. www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/
<http://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/> . See also Cynthia Ogden et al.,
"Prevalence and Trends in Overweight among US Children and Adolescents,
1999-2000," Journal of the American Medical Association 288 (October 9,
2002): 1728-1732.


NOTES FOR ARTICLE
1. Frank Streightoff, The Standard of Living Among the Industrial People of
America (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1911), quoted in Harvey Levenstein,
Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet (Los
Angeles: University of California Press, 2003), 113.
2. Harvey Levenstein, Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the
American Diet (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003), 114-115.
3. Margaret Reid, "Food, Liquor, and Tobacco," in J. Friedrich Dewhurst et
al., eds., America's Needs and Resources (New York: Twentieth Century Fund,
1955), 165-166. Quoted in Harvey Levenstein, Paradox of Plenty: A Social
History of Eating in America (Los Angeles: University of California Press,
2003), 135.
4. Cynthia Ogden et al., "Prevalence and Trends in Overweight Among US
Children and Adolescents, 1999-2000," Journal of the American Medical
Association 288 (9 October 2002): 1728-1732. Richard P. Troiano and
Katherine M. Flegal, "Overweight Children and Adolescents: Description,
Epidemiology, and Demographics," Pediatrics 101, no. 3 (March 1998): 497.
5. "Commencement Speeches a Part of Graduation Day," CBS Morning Show, 9
June 2003.
6. Carol Lynn Mithers, "From Baby Fat to Obesity: Why Kids Even as Young as
2 Are Developing Weight Problems," Parenting, October 2001.
7. Jeffrey B. Schwimmer et al., "Health-Related Quality of Life of Severely
Obese Children and Adolescents," Journal of the American Medical Association
289 (9 April 2003): 1813-1819.
8. "CDC Issues Diabetes Warning for Children," Diabetes Week, 7 July 2003.
9. Ron Winslow, "Heart Disease Hits the Preschool Set: New Research Shows
Warning Signs Begin in Early Childhood," Wall Street Journal, 18 March 2003.
10. Nielsen Media Research, "2000 Report on Television": 14.
11. Ross E. Andersen et al., "Relationship of Physical Activity and
Television Watching with Body Weight and Level of Fatness Among Children,"
Journal of the American Medical Association 279, no. 12 (25 March 1998):
938.
12. Mohammad N. Akhter, "Another Reason to Turn the Television Off,"
Baltimore Sun, 6 May 1999.
13. Nielsen Media Research, "2000 Report on Television."
14. "Research on the Effects of Television Advertising on Children: A Review
of the Literature and Recommendations for Future Research" (Washington:
National Science Foundation, 1977), i.
15. "FTC Staff Report on Television Advertising to Children," Federal Trade
Commission (February 1978): 2.
16. Ibid.: 1.
17. Louise Kramer, "McD's Steals Another Toy from BK; Teletubbies Set Move
to Top Chain as 'Toy Story'-Pokemon War Looms," Advertising Age, 15 November
1999.
18. Max Boas and Steve Chain, Big Mac: The Unauthorized Story of McDonald's
(New York: New American Library, 1976), 106-109.
19. S. A. French et al., "Fast Food Restaurant Use among Adolescents:
Associations with Nutrient Intake, Food Choices and Behavioral and
Psychosocial Variables," International Journal of Obesity 25 (2001):
1823-1833.
20. Michael F. Jacobson, Center for Science in the Public Interest, "Liquid
Candy: How Soft Drinks Are Harming Americans' Health." Citing US Department
of Agriculture Nationwide Food Consumption Survey, 1977-78; Continuing
Survey of Food Intakes by Individual, 1987-88, 1994-96.
21. David Ludwig et al., "Relation between Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened
Drinks and Childhood Obesity: A Prospective, Observational Analysis," The
Lancet 357 (17 February 2001): 505-508.
22. Henry Unger, "Coca-Cola Looks for a Little Magic to Rub off from Harry
Potter Film," Atlanta Journal Constitution, 20 February 2001.
23. "The Coca-Cola Company and Warner Bros. Pictures to Share the Magical
Experience of Reading with 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,' "
Coca-Cola-Warner Bros. news release, 20 February 2001.
24. Vernon Scott, " 'E.T.' Invades Five More Continents," United Press
International, 6 November 1982.
25. Eric Mink, "WB Yet Again Leans on the 'Young' & Clichéd,' " New York
Daily News, 12 July 2000.
26. David Kirkpatrick, "Snack Foods Become Stars of Books for Children," New
York Times, 22 September 2000.
27. See Note 2: 156-157.
28. Mark Pendergrast, For God, Country and Coca-Cola (New York: Collier
Books, 1993), 182.
29. www.obligation.org/c2002junkfoodsurvey.html.
30. "Fact Sheet: Foods and Beverages Sold Outside of the School Meal
Programs," School Health Policies and Programs Study, Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (2000):
www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/shpps/factsheets/fs01_foods_sold_outside_school.htm
<http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/shpps/factsheets/fs01_foods_sold_outside_sc
hool.htm> .
31. Caroline E. Mayer, "PTA Turning to Corporate Sponsors for Funds;
Donation From Coca-Cola to National Group Opposed by Some Parents,"
Washington Post, 21 June 2003.
32. Scott Leith, "Coca-Cola Enterprises Defends Presence in Schools,"
Atlanta Journal Constitution, 6 April 2003.
33. Marian Burros, "Dental Group is Under Fire for Coke Deal," New York
Times, 4 March 2003.
34. "Pediatric Dentists Accused of Selling Out to Coke," Center for Science
in the Public Interest news release, 4 March 2003,
www.cspinet.org/new/200303041.html
<http://www.cspinet.org/new/200303041.html> .
35. Caroline Mayer, "A Growing Marketing Strategy: Get 'Em While They're
Young; Firms Sponsor School Activities and Books," Washington Post, 3 June
2003.
36. See Note 30.
37. "Top Administration Officials Brief GMA Board: Thompson, Hubbard,
McClellan Give Views," Grocery Manufacturers Association news release, 12
November 2002, www.gmabrands.com/news/docs/NewsRelease.cfm?DocID=1028&
<http://www.gmabrands.com/news/docs/NewsRelease.cfm?DocID=1028&amp;> .
38. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/
<http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/> .
39. Gerald Haas, MD, "Fast Food, Fat Kids," Boston Globe, 23 December 2002.

For more information about children as consumers, see the following articles
in past issues of Mothering: "Why They Whine: How Corporations Prey on Our
Children," no. 97, and "Raising Children Free of Food and Weight Problems,"
no. 52.
Gary Ruskin, gary@commercialalert.org, is executive director of Commercial
Alert, a nonprofit organization that protects children and communities from
commercialism. Commercial Alert has extensive materials on childhood obesity
on its website, www.commercialalert.org <http://www.commercialalert.org>

<------article ends here------->

BACKGROUND:
For more information about childhood obesity, see Commercial Alert's
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icle_id/176

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