Daily Archives: January 3, 2011

Fast-food restaurants target U.S. kids, study shows

Fast-food restaurants are stepping up efforts to market themselves and unhealthy food products to children and toddlers with television ads, websites, and even their own menus, researchers have found. They’re saying efforts by the industry to regulate itself have failed and are urging government officials at all levels to declare children a protected group and stop marketing efforts that are fueling child obesity, a serious U.S. health problem. Here are more details from Reuters Health:

“What we found in the marketing data is a staggering amount of fast-food advertising that starts when children are as young as 2 years old,” Jennifer Harris, of the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity in Connecticut, told a telephone briefing.

Harris and colleagues spent a year studying 12 big fast-food chains, analyzed the calories, fat, sugar and sodium in menu items and kids’ meal combinations, and studied what children and teens ordered.

The report, available here, finds the industry spent more than $4.2 billion in 2009 on marketing and advertising on television, the Internet, social media sites and mobile applications.

“Despite pledges to improve their marketing practices, fast food companies seem to be stepping up their efforts to target kids,” Harris said. “Today, preschoolers see 21 percent more fast food ads on TV than they saw in 2003, and somewhat older children see 34 percent more.”

McDonald’s Corp has 13 websites, attracting 365,000 unique child visitors under 12 every month. One, ronald.com, specifically targets preschoolers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says two-thirds of American adults and 15 percent of children are overweight or obese. In some states, the childhood obesity rate is above 30 percent.

HEALTHIER CHOICES

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, spearheading an administration initiative on child obesity, has urged food manufacturers to re-package food so that it is healthier for kids. In 2007, McDonald’s and other large U.S. food and drink companies pledged to adopt stricter controls on advertising to children under 12.

“Most restaurants will say that they have added healthier choices to their menus in recent years,” Yale’s Marlene Schwartz, who worked on the study, told the briefing. “In most cases you have to work very hard to get a healthy side or drink in a fast-food restaurant,” Schwartz said. “You have to know it exists and you have to ask for it.”

Burger King in a statement said it “has strengthened its commitment in this area since 2007 by enhancing its nutrition criteria for advertised Kids Meals,” including lowered sodium.

For tips on helping your family and children make wise nutrition choices, consider ordering a copy of my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat. It’s on sale for $1.99 (85% savings, $11 off) at my online bookstore here.

SuperSized Kids - .161 MB JPEG copy

Timely Reminder: Adults urged to get vaccinated against flu and pertussis

USA Today serves up a timely reminder for us adults:  “Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots for everyone over six months old, only a third of Americans in this age group received one in 2009,” and “even fewer adults are vaccinated against whooping cough.”

But, in light of California’s current battle against “its largest whooping cough outbreak in more than 60 years, health officials are urging adults to get vaccinated as a way protect babies and other vulnerable patients.”

Indeed, “while whooping cough may be nothing more than a nuisance for an adult, it is a ‘tragedy’ for babies, who have no natural immunity against it and whose tiny airways make them especially vulnerable to respiratory bugs.”

Make an appointment today with your family physician to get your influenza vaccine and your dTap (diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis [whooping cough]) vaccine.

National Cancer Institute Should Tell Women of Abortion-Breast Cancer Link

Breast Cancer Surgeon Explains How Abortion Elevates Risk for Women

For years the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has denied a link between abortion and breast cancer.  But NCI may soon have to apologize to the women it has misled—because one of its own researchers is starting to acknowledge the link. Here are the details from my friend, attorney Bill Saunders:

In the last 18 months alone, five studies have demonstrated an increased risk of breast cancer following abortion.  One of those studies, co-authored by Louise Briton, a NCI branch chief, found a statistically significant 40 percent increased risk of breast cancer following abortion.[1]

The study also acknowledged that its findings were “consistent with the effects observed in previous studies on younger women.  Specifically, older age, family history of breast cancer, earlier menarche age, induced abortion, and oral contraceptive use were associated with an increased risk for breast cancer.”[2]

Have these findings caused NCI to reverse course?  Not yet, anyway.  On its website, NCI still blatantly states that “having an abortion… does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer”[3]—a errant conclusion made during a 2003 workshop organized by Ms. Briton herself.

It is time for NCI to stop ignoring the facts.

This failure of NCI to protect women highlights the need for state legislatures to take action.  Women must be informed that induced abortion increases their breast cancer risk.  To date, 31 states require that women receive some kind of information before abortion.  However, only three states—Minnesota, Mississippi, and Texas—explicitly require physicians to inform women seeking abortion of the link between abortion and breast cancer.  Two other states—Alaska and West Virginia—include information about the link in the state-mandated educational materials that women must receive prior to abortion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, there have been more than 45 million legal abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973.[4]  That’s 45 million women who likely unknowingly accepted a greater risk of subsequent breast cancer when they obtained their abortions—proving once again that abortion has two victims: the child and the mother.

Here are some of my other blogs on this terribly important topic in women’s health:

References:

  1. J.M. Dolle et al., Risk Factors for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer in Women Under the Age of 45 Years, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Rev. 18(4):1157, 1158 (Apr. 2009), available here.
  2. Id. at 1162-63.
  3. National Cancer Institute, Abortion, Miscarriage, and Breast Cancer Risk (reviewed 2010), available here.
  4. Guttmacher Institute, Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States (July 2008), available here.