The consumption of junk food has expanded at a rapid pace during the past half century and the consequence of convenience has been the rapid expansion of the nation’s collective waistline. Junk foods dominate the grocery store aisles, are served every day in school lunchrooms and, in the form of fast-food junk, crowd every major intersection.
Eating junk foods on a regular basis, as most of us do, causes weight gain and for one in five Americans, obesity, a major health concern though no one seems to be sounding the alarm.
As far as I’m concerned, the television may be the single greatest invention in all the history of mankind. Just imagine life without it. The mere thought is incomprehensible and more than a little frightening. Unfortunately, much as anything else that brings you pleasure, there are drawbacks. Watching television will make you fat and children are the most at risk. T.V. commercials promote junk foods to an already hypnotized audience.
Commercials promoting foods often misrepresent their products to impressionable children, as well as adults, regarding the product’s nutritional values, or lack of. (Byrd-Bredbenner & Grasso, 2000). There remains a strong association between obesity, regardless of age, and the amount of time spent watching television.
The wide-spread problem, (pun intended) known as the ‘couch-potato’ syndrome, is considered to be the result of consuming large amounts of snack foods which are high in calories and fat content while watching television. Essentially, it’s the result when enticement meets boredom and inactivity.
As children watch their favorite shows, they are attracted by ‘junk food’ then proceed to the kitchen, an endless cycle enabling what has become an epidemic of obese children. Instead of playing outside and burning up calories, children are content to sit and snack.
The ‘couch potato’ syndrome is curable however. Studies have shown what anyone with common sense already knows, obese children lose weight when they are allowed to spend less time in front of the television (Miller, 1999).
The rate of obesity among youths is more than twice what it was just two decades ago. “Every day, nearly one-third of U.S. children aged 4 to 19 eat fast food, which likely packs on about six extra pounds per child per year and increases the risk of obesity” (“Fast Food”).
Some schools are attempting to wean its kids off junk foods by removing candy and soda machines in addition to providing meals that nourish the body not just satisfy the appetite. However, this is the exception, not the rule. Junk foods remain in the majority of schools for economic reasons.
Parents are allowing their school systems to choose financial considerations ahead of the children’s health. “The students may be junk food junkies, but the schools are hooked, too, increasingly dependent on the revenue that soda and candy machines bring in each year” (Nakamura, 2001)
Obesity initiates much more than just public humiliation, which itself is very harmful, usually causing serious psychological damage that lasts a lifetime. The physical detriments of obesity are even more severe. The condition dramatically lowers life expectancy and the quality of life.
The obese suffer a greater number of illnesses, problems in bones and joints and the back region and are more lethargic than those who are not. Obesity is the root of many varied and dangerous health consequences, linked with at least 30 adverse health conditions.
Arthritis of the knees, back, hips and hands are common ailments of the obese. Breast cancer is twice as prevalent among the obese. In addition, the veins of the obese are more constricted which slows oxygen to the tissues of the body and prompts complaints of breathing problems, sleepiness and general fatigue. (“Fast Food”).
The convenience of junk foods are literally killing Americans yet there seems no sense of urgency to reverse the trend, no ‘war on double cheeseburgers’ though junk food consumption is a far greater threat to the lives of Americans than terrorism.
Byrd-Bredbenner C & Grasso D. “Commercials During 1992 and 1998.” Journal of School Health. Vol. 70, (2000), pp. 61-65.
“Fast Food Linked To Child Obesity” CBS News (2003)
Miller, Daphne. “Television’s Effects on Kids: It Can be Harmful!” CNN. (1999).
Nakamura, David. “US Schools Hooked on Junk Food Proceeds” (February 27, 2001) Common Dreams.org.