Ban on fast food TV ads could reverse childhood obesity

November 20th, 2008 - 1:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 20 (IANS) Ban on fast food TV ads could reduce obesity among children by 18 percent, according to a new study. The research was conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) funded by National Institutes of Health.

NBER economists Shin-Yi Chou of Lehigh University, Inas Rashad of Georgia State University and Michael Grossman of City University of New York Graduate Centre co-authored the paper.

The authors found that a ban on fast food TV ads during children’s programming would reduce the number of overweight children aged between three and 11 years by 18 percent, while also lowering the number of overweight adolescents aged between 12 and 18 years by 14 percent.

Though a ban would be effective, the authors also question whether such a high degree of government involvement - and the costs of implementing such policies - is a practical option.

Should the US pursue that path, they would follow Sweden, Norway and Finland as the only countries to have banned commercial sponsorship of children’s programmes, according to a Lehigh release.

“We have known for some time that childhood obesity has gripped our culture, but little empirical research has been done that identifies television advertising as a possible cause,” said Chou, professor at Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics.

The study - the largest of its kind to directly tie childhood obesity to fast food TV ads - is based on the viewing habits of nearly 13,000 children using data from the 1979 Child-Young Adult National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, both issued by the US Department of Labor.

The Centers for Disease Control estimate that, between 1970 and 1999, the percentage of overweight children aged between six and 11 years more than tripled to 13 percent. Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 also saw a significant increase, reaching 14 percent.

Over 300,000 deaths in the United States every year can be attributed to obesity.

The study will be published in the Journal of Law and Economics.

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