American children are addicted to fast food, and with obesity rapidly becoming the leading cause of preventable death in the United States it is easy to point fingers. Over the last two decades, advertisements involving junk food have fueled the increase of a high calorie intake among children. The fast food industry is not the only one to be blamed for the obesity epidemic within America’s Discourse. The lack of education regarding nutrition is also one of the causes for the high demand in unhealthy food. Moreover, another cause could come from American’s lack of will to eat healthy and exercise. However, educating not only children, but the whole world with concerns on the health effects of harmful food will enhance people’s quality of life by decreasing the chances of cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, and increasing overall health, self-esteem, and happiness. By examining the fast food industry’s methods used to make profit and how these methods negatively impact the health of American children, it becomes obvious that these problems need to be tackled to defend the health of the world’s population.
Obesity is dangerous; it is detrimental to the health of more than one third of all Americans. “Obesity has been defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m2, with extreme obesity defined as a BMI greater than 40 kg/m2” (Heath Commun 4). The population of obese children is increasing at a very fast pace with the number of children sitting in front of the television screen. This epidemic is second after tobacco with “An estimated 300,000 deaths per year (…) due to the obesity epidemic” (AACAP 57). Obesity is life threatening because health issues like cardiac disease and type 2 diabetes correspondingly increase. The horrors of these fast food commercials need to be heard. Television should be advertising a healthy lifestyle among children instead of killing them with fake happiness from fries and burger ads. It’s a mystery what fast food companies put in their burgers. In McDonald’s website, the company explains their philosophy, “we use 100% real beef patties seasoned with just a pinch of salt and pepper” (McDonalds). What does “real” meat mean? When eating meat there shouldn’t even be a doubt that it isn’t real. Also, McDonalds didn’t explain what they feed their cows, and how they are treated. It’s all unknown and unreliable. Fast food can hold hormones, extra sugar and chemicals; and the restaurants do not put this information in their ads leaving the consumers ignorant.
The fast food industry purposefully directs its advertisements towards children because they are the easiest to persuade. The industries create commercials that entice children using toy premiums and cartoons. They ensure that the commercials “appear in media in which 50% or more of the audience is between the ages of 2 and 11 years” (Peeler 21). This confirms that the industries are manipulating children’s cravings by luring their attention towards commercials that advertise food that contains “high levels of calories, total fat, saturated fat, sugar, or sodium (i.e., they are unhealthy, calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods, or “junk” foods) and are often nutritionally inferior to products targeting adults” (Powell 576). Even though there are high amounts of saturated fats, sugar and sodium, which are proven to cause many health issues, children would rather eat what’s constantly advertised on their favorite TV channels than what their parents try to feed them.
Children are becoming less physically active and are adopting a sedentary life-style in front of computers and television screens. Constant reminders of junk food pop up in commercials and ads while children browse the internet and watch TV. “Individuals with low 24-hour energy expenditure (200 kcal below predicted values) were 4 times more likely to gain at least 7.5 kg over a 2-year period compared to individuals with high 24-hour energy expenditure (200 kcal above predicted values) (Hurt 92). With the decrease of physical activity comes an increase of TV-watching, and this leads to more commercial time. It’s human instinct to crave food when shown images of people eating. To help this situation children should spend more time outside. This would keep them away from the harmful ads and get them moving. Physical activity is key to healthy living. The combination of eating right and physical activity can decrease the chances of obesity.
Manipulating children into convincing their parents to buy fast food is simple because many parents want to make their children happy. Advertisements can make most activities seem normal because if it is on television and everyone watches, it will become accustomed. “Food advertising of all forms teaches children that most people regularly consume these unhealthy foods, most parents allow these behaviors, and there are no negative consequences for doing so (i.e., poor health or weight gain)” (Harris). The fast food industry teaches children unhealthy habits that they many hold on to for the rest of their lives and pass down to their children. These habits consist of watching TV for hours, picking foods that are high in artificial sugar and fat, and begging parents for fast food. These unhealthy habits will cause many health issues down the line and if many children succumb to these habits it will soon become the norm. With this as the norm, more children will increasingly contribute to the obese population.
With education, the American discourse can work together to decrease the amount of children that sit in front of television and watch these commercials. Allowing schools to teach students how to make healthy eating choices by making cooking classes mandatory could potentially end the obesity epidemic down the line. In turn, this will increase their health and happiness. Another way of prevention is restricting the amount of fast food commercials on children’s television channels. As a result, children will not have the constant reminder to eat unhealthily. Implementing healthy food in school cafeterias and teaching children the difference between “healthy and unhealthy foods” will allow children to understand what exactly they are being influenced to eat. Healthy food can consist of plenty fruits, vegetables and whole grains. According to a group of doctors, “Vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber” (Dewell 9). The healthiest lifestyle of them all is Veganism, and if every child were to be exposed to more plant based meals the rates of disease will decrease significantly. These are just some examples of ways that can help the American discourse by providing some hope for the future generations to come.