Protect Teens from Junk Food Marketing by Reinforcing Their Desire To Rebel, Says Study
In the fight against obesity, researchers have been trying, for decades, to find a way to convince teenagers to skip junk food and eat healthily, with little to no effect. Adolescents are exposed to extensive marketing for junk food -- one of the biggest obstacles that researchers have to overcome. Such marketing is, by design, meant to foster strong positive associations with junk food in kids’ minds driving them to overeat. A new study has revealed that a simple and brief intervention can provide lasting protection for adolescents against the harmful effects of food marketing.
 
The research was conducted by University of Chicago Booth School of Business and published in Nature Human Behaviour. The lead authors found that reframing how students view food-marketing campaigns can spur adolescents, particularly boys, to make healthier daily dietary choices for an extended period of time. This is essentially possible by tapping into teens’ natural desire to rebel against authority. 
 
“Food marketing is deliberately designed to create positive emotional associations with junk food, to connect it with feeling of happiness and fun,” said Dr Christopher J Bryan, one of the authors of the study. Biggest major finding of in the experiment is that the intervention helped in producing a long-lasting change in boys’ and girls’ immediate, gut-level, emotional reactions to junk food marketing messages. Additionally, teenage boys, a notoriously difficult group to convince when it comes to giving up junk food, started making healthier food and drink choices in their school cafeteria. 
 
“One of the most exciting things is that we got kids to have a more negative immediate guy reaction to junk food and junk food marketing and a more positive immediate gut reaction to healthy foods,” said Dr Bryan. The researchers had conducted a preliminary study among eighth standard students at a Texas middle school in 2016. Inside classrooms, one group of students was asked to read a fact-based, exposé-style article on big food companies. 
 
The article framed the corporations as manipulative marketers trying to hook consumers on addictive junk food for financial gain. The stories also described deceptive product labels and advertising practices that target vulnerable populations, including very young children and the poor. A different control group of students was given traditional material from existing health education programmes about the benefits of healthy eating.
The researchers found that the group that read the exposés chose fewer junk food snacks and selected water over sugary sodas the next day.
 
This recent study conducted a similar experiment with teenagers where they first read the marketing exposé material and then did an activity called ‘Make It True’. This activity was meant to reinforce the negative portrayal of food marketing, wherein students were given images of food advertisements on iPads with instructions to write or draw on the ads to transform them from false to true. The study also used a new sample of eighth standard students and found that the effects of the marketing exposé intervention endured for the remainder of the school year - a full three months. 
 
The effects were particularly impressive among boys, who reduced their daily purchases of unhealthy drinks and snacks in the school cafeteria by 31% in that period, compared with the control group. This relatively simple intervention could be an early sign of a public health game changer. “One of the most exciting things is that we got kids to have a more negative immediate gut reaction to junk food and junk food marketing and a more positive immediate gut reaction to health foods,” said Dr Bryan.
 
Teenagers are known have a natural impulse to ‘stick it to the man’ and their developmentally heightened sense of fairness may, finally, provide a way for the public health community to compete against dramatically better funded junk food marketers. This brief, inexpensive and easily scalable intervention appears to provide lasting protection against the enticing power of junk food marketing and to change eating habits for the better.
 
However, the study was less conclusive about the intervention’s effect on teen girls’ cafeteria purchases. Although, like boys, girls experienced a more negative immediate gut response to junk food after the exposé intervention, their daily cafeteria purchases were found to be similar regardless of whether they read the exposé or the traditional health education material.
 
The researchers are still unclear on whether the similar purchases meant that neither intervention improved girls’ dietary choices or that both were effective in girls, but for different reasons. They suspect that, while traditional health education is completely ineffective at changing boys’ behaviour, it might influence girls’ choices because it mentions calories, which might trigger social pressure to be thin. If that is the case, it suggests that the exposé might be a preferable option for girls as well, as it achieves similar results with less risk of body shaming.
 
“This study shows it’s possible to change behaviour during adolescence using a light touch intervention,” said Prof David S Yeager from the University of Texas, Austin. “Adolescence is a developmental stage when even the lengthiest health promotion approaches have had virtually no effect. Because so many social problems, from education to risky behaviour, have their roots in the teen years, this study paves the way for solutions to some of the thorniest challenges for promoting global public health.”
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Poor Diet, the Biggest Risk Factor in Deaths across the World
When considering risk factors responsible for most deaths around the world, you might think that smoking, or even high blood pressure, might top the list. But a major new study has revealed that unhealthy eating is responsible for one in five deaths equivalent to 11 million deaths globally.
 
Although there is a lot of focus these days on maintaining a healthy diet and lowering the intake of unhealthy foods, this study has found that quite the opposite is true in real terms. A low intake of healthy foods is, by far, the more important factor, than high intake of unhealthy foods when the general population is taken into consideration. This research titled, “Global Burden of Disease Study”, looked at dietary consumption between 1990 and 2017 in 195 countries, focusing on 15 types of foods or nutrients. 
 
In the report, published in The Lancet, the researchers show that due to its contribution to non-communicable diseases, poor diet accounted for approximately 11 million deaths globally, in 2017. The vast majority of those deaths, around 10 million, were from cardiovascular disease and the rest were mainly from cancer and type-2 diabetes. 
 
The data collected for this study, to rank countries from lowest to highest rates of diet-related deaths, puts Israel first, with 89 deaths per 100,000 people and Uzbekistan last, with 892 deaths per 100,000. The United States, with 171 deaths per 100,000, comes at the 43rd place and the United Kingdom at the 23rd place, with 127 deaths per 100,000. India is ranked at the 118th place and China at 140th. 
 
“This study affirms what many have thought for several years - that poor diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risk factor in the world,” says Dr Christopher Murray, the author of the study and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington. “While sodium, sugar and fat have been the focus of policy debates over the past two decades, our assessment suggests the leading dietary risk factors are high intake of sodium, sugar or low intake of healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds and vegetables.” 
 
In their analysis of global diets, the researchers looked at 15 items - fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, fibre, calcium, milk, omega-3 fatty acids from seafood, polyunsaturated fats, trans-fats, red meat, processed meat, sugary drinks and sodium. They found that, in 2017, the global diet contained less than the ideal amounts of nearly all healthy food items. The biggest deficiency was in nuts and seeds, milk and whole grains. Consumption of nuts and seeds, for instance, was on average only three grams per day or around 12% of the optimal intake. Similarly, consumption of milk was only 16% of the optimal intake and whole grains intake was only 23%. Alongside these, daily intakes of unhealthy dietary items exceeded the optimal level globally. Sugary drink consumption for example, “was far higher than the optimal intake,” followed by the consumption of processed meat and sodium. 
 
An important finding of the study was that insufficient intake of healthy food could be just as, if not more, damaging than eating too many unhealthy foods. Researchers have noted that the diets that were related to the most deaths were, “high in sodium, low in whole grains, low in fruit, low in nuts and seeds, low in vegetables, and low in omega-3 fatty acids.” They have reported that each of these dietary factors accounted for more than 2% of global deaths.
 
Additionally, just three of these - whole grains, fruits and sodium - accounted for more than half of the diet-related deaths and two-thirds of the years lost to diet-related ill health and disability. Dr Murray says that these results contrast with the fact that, over the past 20 years, policy discussions have tended to focus more on restricting unhealthy foods. He and his colleagues suggest that campaigns should concentrate on re-balancing diets. They also urge that any changes in food production and distribution aimed to achieve this must consider the environmental impact on the climate, land, water and soil.
 
In a separate but linked editorial, Prof Nita G Forouhi and Prof Nigel Unwin, both of the medical research council epidemiology unit at the University of Cambridge in the UK, agree with the authors in that, in a global context and despite its limitations, the study offers evidence to shift the focus from restricting unhealthy food items to increasing healthy ones. They suggest that it confirms the need to emphasise foods rather than nutrients. However, they also highlight some of the challenges of shifting the global diet towards a more healthy one, such as the prohibitive costs of fruits and vegetables. For instance, in low-income countries, “Two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables per day per individual accounted for 52% of household income,” compared with just 2% in high-income nations. 
 
The authors of this study are hopeful that the findings would urge people to try to eat better and policymakers to create and promote policies that aim to increase consumption of healthy foods. The study has further highlighted a need for comprehensive food system interventions to promote the production, distribution and consumption of healthy foods across nations. 
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COMMENTS

Ajeya S

2 months ago

Also please write about the conspiracy of food and beverage companies, they lobby with policy makers and also medical establishment. Yes, Mr . B.M Hegde writes about it but please keep coming up with more and more data which can actually unmask these profit oriented business houses and policy makers.

Even in my Village (In tumkur district near to Bangalore) almost every grocery shop has huge amount of processed food, snacks and drinks. How it reached to nook and corner of this country ?
Kids in my village ask their parents for Lays, kurkure etc and eating RAGI has decreased in younger generation.

Study Finds Nuts To Be Key in Improving Brain Health
Our brain is arguably the most important organ, as it not only controls and coordinates actions and reactions, it also allows us to think, feel, have memories and emotions, and do a lot more. Therefore, keeping your brain healthy is as important as maintaining a healthy and fit body. According to new research, a healthy habit of eating nuts could be the key to better cognitive health as we grow older.
 
In a study conducted by the University of South Australia, researchers found that consuming more than 10gm (grams) of nuts a day is positively associated with better mental functioning, including improved thinking, reasoning and memory. Dr Ming Li led this new study which is the first to report an association between cognition and nut intake in older adults. This new research has provided important insights into increasing mental health issues (including dementia) faced by an ageing population.
 
“Population ageing is one of the most substantial challenges of the twenty-first century. Not only are people living longer, but as they age, they require additional health support which is placing unprecedented pressure on aged-care and health services,” Dr Li said. “Improved and preventative health care, including dietary modifications, can help address the challenges that an aging population presents.”
 
Researchers gathered data from 4,822 Chinese adult participants aged 55+and found that eating more than 10gm (or two teaspoons) of nuts per day improved their cognitive function by up to 60%, compared to those not eating nuts. The research team suggested that such an eating habit could effectively ward off what would normally be experienced as a natural two-year cognition decline. 
 
For the study, researchers analysed nine waves of China Health Nutrition Survey data collected over 22 years, finding that 17% of participants were regular consumers of nuts (mostly peanuts). Peanuts are known to have specific anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which can alleviate and reduce cognitive decline. Dr Li says, “Nuts are known to be high in healthy fats, protein and fibre with nutritional properties that can lower cholesterol and improve cognitive health. While there is no cure for age-related cognition decline and neuro-generative disease, variations in what people eat are delivering improvements for older people.”
 
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), by 2020, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than five years old. WHO also estimates that, globally, the number of people currently living with dementia is 47 million. By 2030, this number is projected to rise to 75 million and, by 2050, global dementia cases are estimated to almost triple. This study, therefore, has major implications for improved and preventive healthcare in nations where people are living far longer and experiencing cognitive decline.
 
“As people age, they naturally experience changes to conceptual reasoning, memory and processing speed. This is all part of the normal aging process. But age is also the strongest known risk factor for cognitive disease, if we can find ways to help older people retain their cognitive health and independence for longer, even by modifying their diet, then this is absolutely worth the effort,” said Dr Li.
 
In other words, if you are looking to justify your nut obsession, rest assured that adding some nuts to your day is really doing something good for your health. So go ahead and go nuts!
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