August 13th, 2009

AMA Calls Time on Junk Food Ads

By Danny Rose
Australian Assoicated Press

Australia’s top doctors body says junk food ads should be barred from peak children’s TV viewing times, as research shows the super-sized health benefits the move would deliver.

A study conducted at Melbourne’s Deakin University found banning the ads would lead to a 1.4 per cent - or more than half a kilogram - reduction in weight of the average Australian child.

It would also result in a saving of $300 million which the government would otherwise face in obesity-related health costs.

“While the Food and Grocery Council may be in denial, every parent knows that junk food advertising to children at any time of the day undermines efforts to encourage healthy eating habits,” Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Dr Andrew Pesce said.

“The Federal and State Governments have agreed on shared national targets for reducing obesity.
“It is time for the Federal Government to show it’s serious about the targets by banning junk food advertising to children.”

The Australian Society for the Study of Obesity has estimated that childhood obesity is rising at an annual rate of one per cent.

Dr Pesce said if this continues, around half of all young Australians will be overweight within 20 years.

The Deakin University research - published in the International Journal of Obesity - modelled the effect of banning the ads within a suite of “interventions” all designed to reduce childhood obesity.

Other measures considered include steps to encourage more children to walk to school, in-school fitness programs, lap band surgery for obese children and doctor-led initiatives.

“Banning TV junk food ads was the highest impact and most cost-effective intervention to reduce childhood obesity that we have modelled to date,” said Boyd Swinburn, Professor of Population Health at Deakin.

“It would not only reduce childhood obesity but it would do so in an equitable way affecting all children and it would eventually result in savings to the taxpayers of $300 million.”

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