Tag Archives: junk food

Slick Super Bowl ads don’t emphasize the junk in junk food

Thanks to pregame hype and Hollywood-quality production values, Super Bowl commercials have become the main attraction for many viewers. But are these blockbuster ads bad for our waistlines?

Food and beverage companies accounted for roughly one-third of the ads that appeared during Sunday’s game, according to Advertising Age. (Car companies took up the other one-third or so, with the remainder split among websites, film studios, and retail chains.) Viewers and partygoers — including millions of children — saw ads from Doritos, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Snickers, and Budweiser, according to the Health News website.

In other words, a high proportion of ads are pitching soda, snacks, and other junk foods loaded with calories, sugar, sodium, and fat.

“Studies show [that] if you see an ad for a product and try it for the first time, you like it more than if you didn’t see the ad,” said Jennifer Harris, PhD, the director of marketing initiatives at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, in New Haven, Conn. “It really is shaping our preferences as well as triggering us to eat more.”

Humor, suspense, and sexy people digging into supersize bags of Doritos have become a staple of Super Bowl commercials. It’s the oldest trick in the book: Make a product or brand attractive and appealing by surrounding it with attractive and appealing stuff.

It’s tempting to believe that this strategy won’t work on you. In the real world, nearly everyone recognizes that people who consume a lot of soda, junk food, and beer are often overweight and unhealthy — not exactly what’s depicted on-screen. And yet we give in to the ploy.

“We know the effects of excessive snacks are quite adverse to people’s health. If you drink a lot of beer, you aren’t going to get all the attractive women,” said Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD, an economist and professor of health services at the UCLA School of Public Health. “That may seem obvious, but those images work on us on a subconscious level.”

Zimmerman believes the true culprit behind the obesity epidemic isn’t high-fructose corn syrup, sodium, or saturated fat, per se, but rather the ubiquitous marketing that makes foods containing those ingredients appealing to Americans.

In his research on the health effects of television on children (and more recently adults), Zimmerman found that the number of commercials people see is more closely linked to the risk of being overweight or obese than the total time they spend watching TV.

And the subconscious impact of Super Bowl ads might be even greater than that of everyday commercials, because the ads are part of the entertainment, Harris said.

“If you see a commercial trying to give you information, you know exactly what it’s doing,” she said. “But if you’re just being entertained, you’re not looking at it in that same way, which is probably what makes it more effective.”


Fruits and vegetables may get marketed like junk food

Candy, chips and soda are widely available and aggressively marketed. Can doing the same with fruits and veggies change consumers’ eating habits?

Some companies and producers are betting they can, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. Carrot farmers are now advertising packaged baby carrots with the slogan, “Eat ‘em like junk food.” A Halloween promotion for the temporarily renamed “Scarrots” includes single-serving packages and “25 temporary glow-in-the-dark tattoos of masquerading baby carrot characters.”

San Francisco is mulling restrictions on the fast-food meals that include toy giveaways — including a requirement to include fruits and vegetables. (A vote on that has been delayed until next month).

The latest frontier is the vending machine, that bastion of snacking convenience. Fresh Del Monte Produce and a vending-machine maker, the Wittern Group, collaborated on a machine specially engineered to dispense fresh-cut fruits and veggies — even easily bruised bananas.

The new machine has two temperature zones to optimally preserve both fresh-cut produce and bananas. And there’s a padded lining and angled walls to prevent bruising. The next iteration of the machine will include a “fruit elevator” to carefully deliver the products.

So, will it work? Recently released CDC stats show that among adults, only 32.5 percent are eating the recommended two or more fruit servings per day, and 26.3 percent the recommended three or more servings of vegetables. The government’s Healthy People 2010 goal was for 75 percent of Americans age 2 and up to meet the fruit recommendation, and 50 percent to meet the one for veggies.

 Will kids be drawn to carrots marketed like Doritos? One study found that kids reported they preferred carrots (as well as graham crackers and gummy fruit snacks) in packages emblazoned with Dora the Explorer, Shrek and Scooby Doo to those in plain packages. But in contrast to the crackers and gummy snacks, kids didn’t report that the carrots in the cartoon-endorsed packages tasted any better.

Junk commericials lead to junk food, obesity

It’s long been held that sitting in front of the television for extended periods, and not getting exercise, may lead to childhood obesity.  But now,  new research suggests it’s the TV commercials kids watch that lead to the problem, according to a story in the New York Times.

In a study of more than 2,000 children, researchers from UCLA compared the time the kids spent viewing television and video. They asked caregivers to track children’s media use during one weekday and one weekend day during 1997, then again in 2002.

The findings showed that the amount of television a child watched wasn’t a predictor of obesity risk. Instead, risk for being overweight increased the more television commercials a child was exposed to. There was no association with television viewing and obesity for those who watched videos or commercial-free programming.

Fred Zimmerman, the study’s lead author and chairman of UCLA’s Department of Health Services, said television commercials for sweetened cereals, junk food and fast food chains probably had an bad  influence over a child’s food preferences.

The more television commercials a child is exposed to, the more likely he or she will be to try those foods and want to continue eating them, which then increases risk for weight gain.