Fat for Life - © Newsweek Magazine

More Online Time = Fatter Kids?

Doctors and other health professionals have long warned that any activity which leads children to spend time sitting rather than doing something active will increase the chance that they’ll become overweight. Now, a new survey has confirmed and quantified that connection in school-age kids…

Recipe for Obese Kids - © dhawkdesign.comIncreased online time means increased exposure to online junk food ads,
which means increased chance of childhood obesity…

What they did…

A University of Liverpool study in partnership with Cancer Research UK tracked almost 2,500 primary school children who spent an average of two hours a day online, on top of schoolwork – increasing to three hours at weekends.

What they found…

Aside from any findings about online use and cancer (none are mentioned in the source story), the study clearly showed that kids who spent more than three hours a day online were more than four times more likely than to spend pocket money on chocolate, crisps and sugary drinks, compared with those spending less than 30 minutes a day online.

And they were 79 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.

From a mathematical point of view, every hour in excess of three that kids spent online each day increased the likelihood that children would spend their pocket money on junk food snacks by 19 percent.

Also, implications for parents…

If the implications for kids aren’t stark enough, the survey indicates that parents are at risk, as well, for every excess hour of online time per day their kids enjoy. The risk, however, is mental rather than physical: the survey found that the children spending the most time online were also far more likely to pester their parents to buy sugary and fatty foods.

The takeaway…

While the UK is launching a program to ban junk food ads on TV before 9 p.m. (and opening consultations on how best to regulate on-demand and streaming ads), study spokesperson Dr. Jyotsna Vohra says action must also be taken to protect kids from online ads for unhealthy foods.

“The evidence suggests that time spent online, where advertising can be prolific, and watching commercial TV increases the likelihood that children will pester for, buy and eat more unhealthy foods. If they didn’t then the food industry wouldn’t spend so much on advertising,” Vohra says.

My take…

This new study just shines a harsh spotlight on the latest threat to our kids from persistent advertising by the (US)$570 billion global junk food industry. People have been talking about the insidious nature of junk food ads aimed at kids for decades. But, now, the childhood obesity situation has reached epidemic proportions and it’s even more important than ever to rein in the industry. And fat kids become fat adults.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, worldwide, 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2016 while over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese. At the same time, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, and, of these, over 650 million were obese. That translates to 39 percent of adults aged 18 years and over being overweight in 2016, and 13 percent were obese. And it’s been getting worse.

Obesity and the health problems it causes cost the global health care system hundreds of billions of dollars every year. I just don’t understand why governments don’t step up and do everything they can to stop people getting fat.

After all, as the WHO points out, “Obesity is preventable.”

~ Maggie J.

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