Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Obesity Crisis

by Isabelle Byrne

One of your 5-a-day?
Last week, with Halloween approaching, my Mum bought, as she does every year, toffee apples for the family. Upon looking at this apple, I noticed that it had a sticker denoting it as “One of your 5-a-day”. Somehow this sticker has distorted the nutritional value of the apple and it is something that we are seeing more and more in advertising for food. For example, on the McDonalds TV advert the food is described as organic – and with this food label comes the idea of a healthy food choice, despite how unhealthy McDonalds food really is.

There is no awareness of the obesity crisis, which is so prominent in the western world. Obesity is the biggest public health problem to face the western world since AIDS. When the London 2012 Olympic Games smashed into our lives this summer, so did McDonalds’ Flagship and Cadbury’s Treat Stops.  The Games could have brought a change in the perception of sport in the UK but they were dragging McDonalds and Cadburys behind them. What could have been a huge step forward for the popularity of sport has only made people associate fast food with sport. In addition to the Olympics McDonalds also aim to fool people into thinking that they are having a beneficial effect on the nation by sponsoring local football teams.

Imagine it – a child who has previously not engaged with sport feels uplifted by the GB Team’s efforts in the Olympics and decides to join a football club. This football club is sponsored by McDonalds and so, seeing the big ‘M’ on his shirt, he decides to go, as a reward for winning the match, with his team to McDonalds. All the exercise that he has done will not account for the calorie intake – the original problem. So instead of doing something to become healthier it actually negatively affects the child’s health.

Another example of McDonalds' growing advertising issue is the audience that the adverts are supposed to be targeting. McDonalds is famed for their “child friendly” adverts and following them is most other fast food chains (KFC and Burger King). By making the customer feel comfortable about fast food as part of daily routine again increases the likely hood of the food being eaten. Obviously this is the idea of advertising but when the item being advertised is unhealthy then this should be stopped – in the same way that advertising for tobacco is illegal.
Part of the Australian government's anti-smoking
campaign (source:
Tobacco advertising is much the same as food advertising. In World War II, cigarettes were given out on the front line as a way of boosting morale. Now, if a country is malnourished, foods which are high in fat and protein are introduced to help. After WWII, the advertising of tobacco boomed and the cigarette industry developed tremendously. Interestingly, it was only in 1968, when the Surgeon General in the USA discovered the harmful non-communicable diseases that came alongside smoking, that it was even considered to be harmful. And 40 years later the UN came up with a policy to ban advertising  - in the future of obesity this could happen.

Ironically, when you walk through a supermarket, the food that is the most expensive is the fresh food. The food that is the worst food for people is the cheapest – therefore making the choice to eat unhealthy food that bit easier.

Obesity is the biggest public health problem since AIDS/HIV and yet it doesn’t get half the coverage that HIV/AIDS did. This is probably because people are less willing to change their behaviour. Also, obesity does not happen overnight; it is a growing problem that will only get worse in time. We therefore, as a nation, need to move forward to try and combat this. So the next time you are hungry after a night out, can’t be bothered to make a meal or just don’t have enough money – I implore you to look to something other than fast food. It will be better for your health and life on the whole – trust me!

See George Chapman's article on the threat to public health posed by dementia.

1 comment:

  1. I thought it was cheaper to buy fresh and then cook from scratch. However you are right in that they should try to reduce the availability of fast food in supermarkets.
    Nat Charles


Comments with names are more likely to be published.