Child Obesity Seen As Fueled by Spanish-Language TV
By Katerina Pesheva
Spanish-language television is bombarding children
with so many fast-food commercials that it
may be fueling the rising obesity epidemic among Latino
youth, according to research led by
pediatricians from the
Hopkins Children's Center. Latino children, who make up
one-fifth of the
U.S. child population, have the highest obesity and
overweight rates of all ethnic groups.
A report on the study, funded by the Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation, appears online ahead of
print in the Journal of Pediatrics.
"While we cannot blame overweight and obesity solely
on TV commercials, there is solid
evidence that children exposed to such messages tend to
have unhealthy diets and to be overweight,"
said study lead investigator Darcy Thompson, an assistant
professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins.
Past research among English-speaking children has
shown that TV ads influence food
preferences, particularly among the more impressionable
Researchers reviewed 60 hours of programming airing
between 3 and 9 p.m., heavy viewing hours
for school-age children, on Univision and Telemundo, the
two largest Spanish-language channels in the
United States, reaching 99 percent and 93 percent of U.S.
Latino households, respectively. Univision
content was recorded from its national network cable in
Seattle, and Telemundo content was recorded
on a local carrier in Tucson, Ariz. Tallying two or three
food commercials each hour, the investigators
said that one-third of them speciŞcally targeted children.
Nearly half of all food commercials
featured fast food, and more than half of all drink
commercials promoted soda and drinks with high
To counter the effects of food commercials, the
researchers suggest that young children
should be allowed no more than two hours a day of TV
viewing, and parents should talk to them about
healthy diet and food choices. Children younger than 2
should not be allowed to watch any TV,
pediatricians advise. They also recommend that
pediatricians caring for Latino children should be
aware of their patients' heavy exposure to food ads and the
possible effects, and that public health
officials should urge policy-makers to limit food
advertising to children, something many European
countries are already doing.
Co-investigators in the study are Glen Flores, of the
University of Texas; and Beth Ebel and
Dimitri Christakis, of the University of Washington,
GO TO MARCH 3, 2008
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
GO TO THE GAZETTE