Relating to the Classics

Our recent post referred to the tendency of some things to “go together,” almost as if their pairing was a law of Nature. One of those seemingly inevitable conjunctions links spectator sports and junk food. In 1908, the team of Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer wrote the profoundly American song whose chorus goes like this:

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I ever get back.

One might think the synergy between sporting events and recreational eating could not go back much further, but one would be mistaken. For Popular Mechanics, Tim Newcomb described the landscape beneath a venerable landmark, and some of the ancient garbage found there:

A recent study of the drainage system at the Roman Colosseum shows that stadium-goers snacked on fruit, meat, veggies, and even pizza.

If the stadium had not already been officially one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the vast, intricate subterranean infrastructure would cinch the deal. A year-long study has identified (among other fascinating items) the detritus of sports fans answering the call of the munchies. Archaeological officer Federica Rinaldi told the reporter, “We have recovered traces of the remains of the meals that were eaten in the stands during the shows.” He also said,

[S]pectators snacked on a variety of meats, vegetables, and fruits… Archeologists found remnants of olives, figs, grapes, peaches, plums, walnuts, cherries, hazelnuts, and blackberries. They also believe that the meat was “cooked at the moment on improvised braziers…”

The only difference is, the Romans did not have “junk food” per se. In those days, no scientists devoted entire careers to making food more palatable but less nutritious. They worked with what the fields and orchards provided, and every item mentioned in that paragraph can be justified as making a positive nutritional contribution.

An eternal truth?

“Drug experts who now study food have learned that cravings destroy willpower,” writes investigative journalist and author Michael Moss in the Los Angeles Times. But is that inevitably true? After all, when Odysseus, who lived more than 1,000 years B.C.E., had himself tied to the ship’s mast in order to resist the deadly allure of the Sirens, he certainly acted on the principle that cravings destroy willpower.

Now, as the author relates, a substance is sold in pill form “that works a little like methadone for heroin addicts.” Gymnema sylvestreis is a woody vine from which compounds can be extracted that “keep the brain from getting overly excited for sugar by disabling the sweet receptors on the tongue… For an hour or so, brownies and doughnuts and Oreo cookies all taste like putty…”

Moss explains that we are helpless against our evolutionary drive to consume maximum calories to fuel our bodies:

We have sensors in the gut and possibly in the mouth that tell us how many calories we’re eating, and the more calories there are, the more excited the brain gets, which makes us vulnerable to the processed-food industry’s snacks…

Sugars and fats are individually quite compelling, but in combination, they grab hold of a part of the brain called the striatum, which is known to be connected with compulsive behavior. Moss writes,

In my research, I found that hyperprocessed, convenient food products can be as addictive as cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, if not more so, using the industry’s own definition.

So, the important thing is to figure out how to get ahead of the cravings, to forestall and neutralize and cancel them out, which is exactly what Odysseus did by ordering his crew to restrain him with ropes.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,”, undated
Source: “Esplorazione del sistema fognario antico del Colosseo,”, undated
Source: “Here’s What Ancient Romans Ate While Watching Shows at the Colosseum,”, 11/30/22
Source: “Op-Ed: Big Food wants us addicted to junk food. New brain science may break its grip,”, 06/06/21
Image by r.passman/CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED

The Role of Exercise in Sustaining Weight Loss Beyond Medication

For nearly a year, the discourse surrounding GLP-1 weight loss drugs such as Wegovy, Zepbound and Saxenda has been ongoing, with a central focus on what happens when patients stop using the meds. There’s been a prevailing concern: Can weight loss be maintained once these medications are discontinued? A recent Danish study, spearheaded by Professor Signe Sørensen Torekov and her team from the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen and Hvidovre Hospital, sheds crucial light on this matter.

GLP-1 weight loss drugs such as Wegovy have undoubtedly been instrumental in assisting users in shedding excess weight, especially in an era where obesity rates continue to rise. However, the apprehension lies in the aftermath of cessation — the fear of weight regain looms large. But Torekov’s study challenges this assumption. He says,

It is actually possible to stop taking the medication without large weight regain, if you follow a structured exercise regime. Our study offers new hope, as we have shown that the majority of those who take weight loss medication and exercise regularly are able to maintain the beneficial effects a year after treatment termination.

The study, led by Postdoc Simon Birk Kjær Jensen, scrutinized the effects following treatment for obesity, providing valuable insights into the long-term outcomes of these medications. Jensen says,

Even though medical treatment for obesity is effective, people who stop taking the drugs have difficulties maintaining the beneficial effects. Within a year, they will typically have gained more than two thirds of the lost weight. However, our study shows that people who exercise during treatment do not have the same propensity to put on weight post treatment.

Two hours of exercise a week is enough

The study’s methodology included four groups: a placebo group, a group receiving Saxenda (liraglutide 3 mg), an exercise-only group, and a group receiving Saxenda while also exercising regularly. The results underscored the significance of exercise, revealing that just two hours of exercise a week, coupled with medication or even on its own, significantly contributed to maintaining the benefits of treatment.

Jensen explains,

All it takes is two hours of exercise a week that gets the heart rate up and makes you pant. And it may differ from one person to the next. For people with severe obesity and low initial fitness level, a brisk walk may be sufficient, whereas people with higher fitness level may have to practise running or cycling, e.g. interval spinning.

Torekov emphasizes, “We now have an effective drug for obesity, but it’s imperative to combine medical treatment with regular physical exercise.” The study indicates that exercise not only aids in weight maintenance but also enhances overall quality of life, as evidenced by improved energy levels and mental well-being among participants in the exercise groups.

The implications of this study are profound, suggesting a paradigm shift in the approach to obesity treatment. Torekov and Jensen even advocate for the integration of exercise recommendations into prescriptions for weight loss drugs.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “With regular exercise, medical weight loss treatment does not have to be permanent,”, 2/20/24
Source: “Healthy weight loss maintenance with exercise…,”, 2/19/24
Image by Yulissa Tagle on Unsplash

Like a Horse and Carriage

The methodology involved in persuading children to pester their parents for certain brands of cereal and other food products has been described as aggressive, pervasive, ubiquitous, tiresome, underhanded, and plenty of other adjectives. Julia Olech, whose work we have quoted before, is the author who confronts the American public with such concepts as, “70% of three-year-olds recognize the McDonald’s symbol, but only half of them know their last name.”

Before that can even sink in, the author piles on additional interesting facts. Based on them, she makes several cogent, related points that suggest a certain line of deduction, loosely summarized here:

  • Children who are not thinking about food are less likely to eat.
  • Children who are consciously thinking about food are more likely to eat.
  • The probability is high that they will choose food unwisely.
  • Children who eat unwisely are more likely to become obese.
  • If we want children not to be obese, we should aim to have them eat less.
  • In the media that children consume and interact with the overwhelming majority of ads sell junk food.
  • And in the unlikely event that a particular ad is for a healthful food, advertising co-opts the person’s attention, and sets their mind on food, increasing the likelihood that they will eat unwisely and become obese.

Startling discrepancies

If we had a nickel for every nugget of misinformation presented in a food ad, they would reach from here to the moon. Though not technically a food, Coke has been notorious for telling fibs. The soft drink empire has set a record to which others can only hope to aspire, as explored in at least four Childhood Obesity News posts.

Dangerous liaisons

Advertising, especially when performed by popular athletes and entertainment figures, reinforces the idea that some things go together like “love and marriage, horse and carriage.” Americans have always known that part of a movie night is eating a bunch of junk food. If you are watching a spectator sport, you are expected to be feeding your face. Whether in the stadium or the living room, particular kinds of nutritionally deficient foods are just part of the deal.

It is in the best interest of Big Junk Food to normalize the consumption of crap on every possible occasion. The industry’s publicity machine is excellent at this, Olech notes, to the point where “many US junk food ads have been banned in countries like New Zealand, the UK, or Australia.” She goes on to say,

This continuous exposure to junk food ads is shaping children’s norms and expectations about what foods are acceptable to eat regularly.

Like, doughnuts for every breakfast, fries for every lunch — why not? All the manufacturer needs to do is find one recognizable celebrity, and voilà! Everybody gets a bonus!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Junk Food Marketing Study: What Are Kids Being Fed?,”, 02/13/24
Image by Holger/CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

How Big Is 10 Billion?

Childhood Obesity News has cited these figures before, and they are definitely worthy of repetition:

More than 80% of food advertising in the country promotes fast food, sugary drinks, and unhealthy snacks…

Does that signify that four out of five food ads are for junk? Or does it mean that out of every hour of advertising, 48 minutes are peddling junk? Or out of every 100 food images shown, 80 of them depict junk? Well, guess what? However that percentage was calibrated, it is disgusting.

It’s still brainwashing, and journalist Julia Olech mentions the creepy racist/classist angle that makes it even worse:

[R]esearch suggests marketers often target families from poor socioeconomic backgrounds as well as Hispanic and Black communities. In 2021, Black children viewed up to 21% more food and beverage ads than their White peers, while food companies increased their budgets allocated for Spanish-speaking advertisements.

The equally big news on this topic is that every year, the United States food industry spends $10 billion on marketing. Just for grins, let’s plug that figure into a search engine and see where else it applies.

In 2023, American adults lost $10 billion to malicious fraudsters who run investment scams; imposter scams; online shopping scams; prize, sweepstakes and lottery scams; and business and job opportunity scams. Ten billion is how much the federal government contemplates ponying up in subsidies to jump-start American semiconductor manufacturing.

$10 billion is the amount that…

  • Microsoft decided to invest in OpenAI (generative artificial intelligence).
  • In 2021, the administration declared it would devote itself to expanding confidence in and access to COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Facebook stated it would spend, in 2021 alone, “on Facebook Reality Labs, its metaverse division developing AR and VR hardware, software, and content.”
  • In 2022, California’s Governor Newsom vowed to spend on switching to zero-emission vehicles and other measures to attain clean energy and rescue the climate.
  • Last year, was offered to the Walt Disney Co. for a package to include the ABC television network, and the cable networks FX and National Geographic.

Part of the text that goes with the illustration on this page says:

Until now, the biggest supermassive black holes — those roughly 10 billion times the mass of our sun — have been found at the cores of very large galaxies in regions of the universe packed with other large galaxies.

In other words, $10 billion is a serious number, a big-league, no-fooling, we-mean-business kind of a sum — especially when it is mentioned on a per annum basis; when the expenditure is encompassed within a single year. Olech adds,

To put that into perspective, the US government allocates a budget of around $1 billion to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic diseases.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Junk Food Marketing Study: What Are Kids Being Fed?,”, 02/13/24
Source: “As Nationwide Fraud Losses Top $10 Billion in 2023, FTC Steps Up Efforts to Protect the Public,”, 02/09/24
Source: “Intel in talks for more than $10 billion in Chips Act incentives,”, 02/20/24
Source: “Fact Sheet,”, 03/25/21
Source: “Microsoft to Invest $10 Billion in OpenAI, the Creator of ChatGPT,”, 01/23/23
Source: “Facebook is spending at least $10 billion this year on its metaverse division,”, 10/25/21
Source: “Governor Newsom Outlines Historic $10 Billion Zero-Emission Vehicle Package to Lead the World’s Transition to Clean Energy, Combat Climate Change,”, 01/26/22
Source: “Media mogul Byron Allen offers Disney $10 billion for ABC, cable TV channels,”, 09/15/23
Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/CC BY 2.0 DEED

GLP-1 Weight Loss Medications in the News

We continue looking at the latest headlines in the fascinating and controversial world of GLP-1 weight loss drugs. Let’s go!

Coverage of weight loss drugs might be changing

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is considering a change that would require insurers to cover obesity drugs for more than 20 million Americans under Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans. This change could expand coverage for obesity drugs, infertility treatments, and sexual dysfunction treatments, potentially impacting the market significantly.

Study finds GLP-1 med reduces opioid craving

In other news, the study presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference demonstrates that the GLP-1 medication liraglutide significantly reduces opioid cravings, potentially offering a novel approach to treating opioid addiction. Among 20 patients with opioid use disorder, those on liraglutide experienced a 40% reduction in cravings over the three-week study, with the effect seen even at low doses.

Combining liraglutide with buprenorphine, another medication for opioid use disorder, further reduced cravings and mitigated gastrointestinal side effects. However, gastrointestinal distress led to a high dropout rate among participants, highlighting a potential barrier to treatment.

Despite limitations such as the small sample size and short trial duration, researchers emphasize the importance of these findings as a proof of concept and plan larger trials to confirm the efficacy of liraglutide in treating opioid addiction.

GLP-1 drugs show potential for alcoholism treatment

Christian Hendershot, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill psychologist who has been studying GLP-1s for alcohol use disorder and was not involved with the study, emphasized the importance of this data as a proof of concept and a stepping stone toward larger trials. He said:

The reason these initial findings are nice is that they looked at this question in a really controlled environment. We know that craving predicts relapses in many cases, so having established that reduction, the next question is whether drugs like liraglutide suppress craving and relapse in the natural environment…

Patricia Grigson, director of the Penn State Addiction Center for Translation, who was involved in the trial, also commented:

With one person dying every five minutes and people dying around the world due to opioid exposure, we feel a sense of urgency… I feel very hopeful; there may be a new treatment for opioid use disorder.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Should ACA plans cover weight loss drugs?,”, 2/20/2024
Source: “Opioid cravings were reduced by anti-obesity drug in small study,”, 2/17/2024
Image by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Bending Kids’ Minds

Just in time to complement this page’s series on the history of dubiously-intentioned, propaganda-styled advertising, journalist Julia Olech has published a highly detailed report on the state of the invidious art today.

It leads with what might be the most dramatic fact about age-related mortality:

Children and teens today are the first generation with a shorter life expectancy than their parents — largely down to serious health concerns linked to the overconsumption of junk food.

One of the many villains here is high fructose corn syrup. Europe is less enamored of the substance, but still a long way from being perfect. A total of 40% of Spanish children are overweight. Europe on average runs about 12.5% while the U.S. hovers around 20%. Everywhere, junk food is “unhealthy, highly processed, and nutritionally poor.”

The manufacturers don’t necessarily want to make all the young’uns fat. They want to make a hefty profit, and if a planet full of fat kids is the consequence, too bad. They are not scheming, conniving misers, but only leaders interested in “shaping the new generation of consumers,” which sounds more benign. The fast-food restaurant empire, for instance, willingly pays $5 billion per annum to attain maximum media-based influence over young minds.

With contests and material rewards, companies actively train (or perhaps “groom” is the word) children to be avid consumers. Knowing how to pitch throughout diverse markets is an art form. For live-streamed media, the timing of messages is crucial, but on-demand media is the advertiser’s dream. Kids of all ages are deluged with ads all day.

Olech explains the dynamic: With contests and material rewards, companies actively train (or perhaps “groom” is the word) children to be avid consumers. She writes,

[P]roduct placements can make a specific brand part of a story, which makes the products seem more attractive and prestigious… [C]hildren feel more inclined to copy whatever their favorite characters are doing…

The author dug up some facts that beggar belief. Check this out:

70% of three-year-olds recognize the McDonald’s symbol, but only half of them know their last name.

Apparently, YouTube is a hotbed of pernicious advertising. Nine out of 10 food ads are for junk. Well, they aren’t ads, exactly, because some effort has been made to curtail the overwhelming influence of advertising. The content now is mainly a weird hybrid of promotion and entertainment. Here is a meaty paragraph about the consequences of subjecting children to sales pitches, however cleverly disguised:

Studies show it very often creates untrue biases in developing minds, which they take with them into adulthood. These perceptions are often very difficult to change, forcing a specific outlook on certain parts of life. The proliferation of gaming ads is also worrying given the research showing the addictive nature of gaming and its impacts.

Then, the picture darkens, as Olech invokes the COVID pandemic, when many children had to stay home and do their learning online. Some food industry giants took advantage of the social dysfunction and placed their advertising on educational platforms for the captive audience of sitting ducks.

Objections were raised, because of the general distraction, and the planting of food images in the children’s minds, which could lead them to thinking about food and then to wanting food and then to eating food and becoming overweight. And privileged families can afford ad-blocking software, while destitute families cannot. The intrusion was stopped for the time being, but ideas this reprehensible always make a comeback.

Many more topics are addressed in Olech’s excellent piece, by the way, and it is recommended.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Junk Food Marketing Study: What Are Kids Being Fed?,”, 02/13/24
Image by Lars Plougmann/CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

Selling Crap to Kids, Part 12

In his New York Times piece, “Why Your New Year’s Diet Is Doomed,” Mark Bittman wrote,

The interactions among calorie intake, exercise, fat accumulation, insulin resistance and genetic background, along with other environmental factors that cause diet-related diseases (such as stress and generational poverty), are variable and complicated.

In other words, and not surprisingly, this problem is and always will be multi-factorial, and thus not amenable to any facile solution. Still, it is always possible that some factors weigh more heavily than others, and in this case, the factor known as ultra-processing was recognized as quite significant because, “Now, more than half of our total calories come from ultra-processed foods.”

What does that mean exactly? One apt definition was provided by the Brazilian scientist, Carlos Monteiro, who characterized such foods as containing ingredients that are “never or rarely used in kitchens.” But they are used in factories where, for example, the perceived necessity of a freakishly unnatural, extremely prolonged shelf life is also to blame.

We have seen that researchers easily obtain from children confessions about how they harass their parents, both at home and in public places, to obtain their substances of choice. Of course, these exertions are aided by the cunning strategy employed by grocery stores, of placing the products garnished with pictures of cartoon characters on the lower shelves where children can’t miss them.

We say it, you believe it

Such predatory practices set kids up to fail and obviously contribute to the obesity epidemic, and nobody seems able to do anything about them. Or rather, the people who are able are not willing; while those who are willing are not able.

Many individuals and groups lobbied for stricter rules that would require supermarkets to rearrange their shelves and keep sweets out of children’s sightlines. Even some politicians risked incurring the anger of their corporate overlords by demanding that foods with low nutritional value and high obesity potential be placed on higher shelves.

Unfortunately, studies from the Netherlands indicated that such cosmetic measures are pretty much doomed to futility:

[P]ositioning healthier snacks at the checkout counter, without removing less healthy snacks, did not result in the replacement of less healthy snack purchases with healthier alternatives. To discourage the purchase of less healthy snacks at supermarket checkouts, a total substitution of less healthy with healthier snacks is clearly the most effective.

Clearly, no business is going to hide its highly processed and fattening foods in the back room. Those products will remain out where the people who want them can easily find them. And just offering a healthful alternative next to the crappy stuff does not inspire people to choose the healthful alternative.

The only way to stop customers from buying worthless substances posing as food is to not even offer it for sale. In which case, most people will just go to a different store whose products are more to their liking.

How low can you go?

Over in the United Kingdom, there are some standards in place regarding what may be publicly said about food and drink, in places where young folks might hear. One year ago, researchers from the University of Chicago looked at a bunch of Instagram posts made by the “beautiful people” and applied those standards to what they saw:

They found 87 percent of celebrity accounts analyzed received an unhealthy overall food nutrition score, with 89.5 per cent receiving the same result for beverages.

These messages, in the main, were not obviously paid-for advertisements, but allegedly spontaneous and sincere remarks the famous folk just happened to make in the course of living their everyday lives. Many of those remarks did and do concern alcohol, which is nobody’s idea of a healthful influence (and which contributes to obesity both by containing calories and by corrupting people’s judgment about what they ought to be eating).

And in the food category, it comes as no surprise to learn that those observations tend overwhelmingly to concern snacks and sweets. Also, this type of message, which is perceived by fans as authentic and credible, draws more reactions or “engagement,” which in turn rewards the celebrities who regard attention as a form of payment.

Of course, some of them also make millions of dollars for a single post, but shhhh! We are supposed to pretend we don’t know that.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Why Your New Year’s Diet Is Doomed,”, 01/09/21
Source: “Can Healthy Checkout Counters Improve Food Purchases? Two Real-Life Experiments in Dutch Supermarkets,”, 11/19/20
Source: “Are influencers making our children FAT?,”, 01/12/22
Source: “20 of Instagram’s Highest Paid Stars in 2024,”, 01/30/24
Image by balu/CC BY 2.0 DEED

Pet Obesity Survey Reveals U.S. Cats and Dogs Getting Fatter

We haven’t discussed pet obesity in a while, with such hot topics as advertising to kids and the GLP-1 weight-loss drugs taking over for a while. So now is a good time as any to revisit this topic.

Although there isn’t currently much in the news about pet obesity, except for some pet food companies tooting their own horn by promoting their weight-management pet food products, maybe the lack of news is still news — or non-news — or at least a stark reminder that not much is being done about our fat pets.

Dogs and cats are getting fatter

A pet obesity survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention in 2022 (the most recent statistics available) showed an increase in overweight and obese dogs and cats, with 59% of dogs and 61% of cats classified as overweight or obese. For dogs, this percentage increased from 56% in 2018 and 2017, and for cats a slight increase from 60%.

Let’s put this in perspective. To put a visual on how even a “little” weight gain for a pet compares to an average human, for a cat, 2 lbs over ideal weight is equivalent to 30 lbs in humans. For a small dog, compared to a human, it’s 12 lbs, and for a large dog, it’s 5 lbs.

Other key survey findings include these revelations:

Consistent with previous surveys, many dog and cat owners failed to recognize excess weight or overweight body conditions in their pets. Nearly one-third (32%) of owners of overweight or obese pets (BCS 6-9) classified their pet as “normal,” “ideal,” or “thin” body condition when asked by their veterinary professional.

36% of dog owners considered their pet’s body condition “normal” when their veterinary professional classified it as BCS 6-9 (overweight to obesity).

28% of cat owners considered their pet’s body condition “normal” when their veterinary professional classified it as BCS 6-9 (overweight to obesity).

That’s a pretty skewed perception, especially considering the fact that pets count on us to keep them healthy.

Do veterinarians discuss healthy weight?

Yes, and it’s gotten better. The survey found that 49% of respondents reported that their veterinary professionals discussed their pet’s ideal or healthy weight yearly, compared to 46% in 2021. Adding to this somewhat hope-inspiring finding, two-thirds (67%) of pet owners surveyed said they “have not felt embarrassment or uncomfortable after being told their pet needed to lose weight.”

Pet weight loss strategies and success rates

The numbers show that the majority of pet owners try to help their pets lose weight (73% of dog owners and 58% of cat owners). The survey attempts to explain the difference between cat and dog weight loss efforts may be attributable to factors such as:

[…] being able to exercise a dog through walks or outdoor physical activities, the ability to perceive weight gain more easily on a canine, or familiarity with breed standards and morphology.

As for the self-reported success rates, dog owners reported higher “success” or “some success” rates than cat owners (34% vs. 19%, and 26% vs. 34%, respectively). “No success” or “My pet did not lose weight despite my best effort” was reported by 23% of dog and 29% of cat owners.

Causes of pet obesity and who is to blame

Finally, the survey used a Likert Scale format to help determine pet owners’ opinions on the causes of pet obesity. There were five response choices: strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, and strongly agree. To the question of whether or not pet owners thought obesity was a result of overfeeding 73% of pet owners somewhat or strongly agreed. Seventy percent of respondents somewhat agreed that pet obesity is caused by poor feeding choices, and 68% agreed or somewhat agreed that obesity is caused by not enough exercise.

The last finding we cite here might give us pause, since a majority of pet owners reported being aware their pets are overweight and trying to help them lose weight. Still, only 32% of pet owners surveyed strongly agreed that pet owners are to blame for an overweight or obese pet, 30% somewhat agreed, 23% were neutral, 8% somewhat disagreed, and 7% downright disagreed.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “2022 U.S. Pet Obesity Prevalence Survey,” Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 2022
Source: “What does weight gain actually look like for your pet?,”, undated
Image by Nika Benedictova on Unsplash

Selling Crap to Kids, Part 11

As the 20-teens decade progressed, conditions grew worse in the realm of celebrity endorsements. A study from New York University’s School of Medicine zeroed in on the sick relationship between the sports industry and the junk food industry.

Journalist Megan Sheets summarized it thusly:

More than three quarters of food products and half of beverages sponsored by the leagues most popular among American children are unhealthy… The findings revealed that 76 percent of food products are unhealthy and 52.4 percent of beverages are sugar sweetened across all of the sports-organization sponsored advertisements. Little League had the third-most unhealthy sponsorships.

Increasingly, individual athletes were blamed and shamed for making money from this unholy alliance. A study published in Pediatrics demonstrated that:

Social-media “influencers” can drive kids to consume unhealthy foods… But that clout disappears when it comes to their promoting healthy foods… [S]eeing influencers promote healthy snacks didn’t significantly move the needle on food intake.

The United Kingdom’s University of Cambridge published a study which indicated that setting a limit on the hours when TV ads directed at children could be shown, would make a “meaningful contribution” toward reducing childhood obesity. Dr. Oliver Mytton told the press,

Our analysis shows that introducing a 9 PM watershed on unhealthy TV food advertising can make a valuable contribution to protecting the future health of all children in the UK… However, children now consume media from a range of sources, and increasingly from online and on-demand services… [I]t is important l to ensure that this advertising doesn’t just move to the 9-10pm slot and to online services.

A noble ambition, but one doomed from its inception because obviously, the trend would only continue in one direction, toward 24 hours per day of entertainment financed by ads for everything awful.

The year 2021 began with a New York Times piece by Mark Bittman pessimistically titled “Why Your New Year’s Diet Is Doomed.” He placed the blame on “the Big Food marketers that sell you that junk” to the tune of $14 billion (with a B) spent on advertising per year, and then generously extended the shame to “politicians who enable them.” Why? Because government serves “the interests of agribusiness, food processors, marketers and retailers.”

In relation to this, Bittman helpfully pointed out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention work with a budget of less than $1 billion per year to prevent disease and promote health. For the mathematically challenged, that means the promoters of disease and preventers of health were spending 14 times as much. It’s all about money, in more ways than one.

The primary determinant of the quality of diet is income, not ignorance, intelligence or will. With 12 percent of Americans going hungry, and millions of households with children uncertain that they’ll be able to feed their kids, the “choice” is often between eating processed food and not eating at all.

Sabrina Sanchez wrote those words in the middle of 2021, by which time COVID-19 had become a factor to be reckoned with. A 72-page report was published showing that “brands and platforms including McDonald’s, Unilever, Facebook and Twitch use technology-driven marketing tactics to sell high-sugar and high-sodium products to kids, leading to obesity.”

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, warned that manufacturers had built “arsenals of data profiling services” using artificial intelligence and machine learning. The purpose of these constructs was to predict the most effective way to advertise, and then to make sure that the predictions came true. Chester says,

In 2020, children between the ages of 6 to 8 years-old cited McDonald’s as their number-one favorite brand, followed by YouTube, Oreo and M&Ms, according to youth market researchers Smarty Pants. Minors ages 9 to17 years-old cited YouTube first, followed by Oreo, Hershey’s, Cheetos and Doritos among the top 10.

The issue was raised that such marketing machinations could be violating the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. Advocacy groups tried their best, but realistically, obtaining protection via child privacy legislation never stood a chance.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Sports leagues blamed for fueling childhood obesity as 76% of teams promote junk food and soda,”, 03/26/18
Source: “How social-media influencers are making your kids fat,”, 03/05/19
Source: “Television advertising limits can reduce childhood obesity, study concludes,”, 10/13/20
Source: “Why Your New Year’s Diet Is Doomed,”, 01/09/21
Source: “Fast food and soft drink advertising contributes to childhood obesity,”, 05/12/21
Image by Tony Alter/CC BY 2.0 DEED

Selling Crap to Kids, Part 10

Suppose that a prominent medical journal published a review paid for by Coca-Cola, General Mills, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods, and Monsanto, and partly authored by “a member of the scientific advisory board of Tate & Lyle, one of the world’s largest suppliers of high-fructose corn syrup” — which actually happened in 2016. What would a person expect that article to say? Well, if they guessed that it would say sugar is just fine and dandy, and all the unrealistically alarmist warnings against sugar are based on flimsy evidence — they would be correct.

As soon as Annals of Internal Medicine hit the streets, the backlash flared up, and plenty of health experts pointed out that the patron who put up the money for this “news,” the International Life Sciences Institute, was a very biased, partial, and subjective tool of the industry. For its part, the poor, misunderstood industry, especially the junk food contingent, claimed to only want the development of “trustworthy guidelines on sugar intake.”

This was all part of a larger strategy by which the industry endeavored to recruit as many bent academics as possible to volubly cheer for Team Sugar. Even way back in the 60s, the same deceptive voices had been hired to put a halo around sugar and cast all blame on saturated fat.

So in 2016, the effort was still going strong, when “the Associated Press reported in June that food companies paid for studies that claimed candy-eating children weigh less.” In its turn, the new shocking paper was characterized as “reminiscent of tactics once used by the tobacco industry, which for decades enlisted scientists to become ‘merchants of doubt’ about the health hazards of smoking.”

Dr. Dean Schillinger, internal medicine specialist at San Francisco General Hospital, accused the industry of “hijacking the scientific process in a disingenuous way to sow doubt and jeopardize public health.” Many other experts joined in the condemnation. Journalist Anahad O’Connor reported,

“This comes right out of the tobacco industry’s playbook: cast doubt on the science,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University who studies conflicts of interest in nutrition research. “This is a classic example of how industry funding biases opinion. It’s shameful.”

In the following year, California toughened up rules that had been in effect for a decade, against soft drinks and foods high in fat and sugar being available in school. Now, the education system also banned advertising for such products in any form, and tossed out some of the sneaky workarounds that the industry had devised to avoid the rules. Journalist Cameron St. Germain wrote,

[T]he bill includes restrictions on corporate incentive programs such as the Box Tops for Education program, which rewards schools for collecting box tops clipped from specially marked products. The products, however, tend to be processed foods like cereals, snack bars, cookies, frozen pizzas, and other foods full of added sugar, salt, and fat… As this type of program constitutes a type of in-school advertising, it has been banned as part of the new bill.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Study Tied to Food Industry Tries to Discredit Sugar Guidelines,”, 12/19/16
Source: “California Targets Childhood Obesity with New Advertisement Regulations,”, 11/21/17
Images by Ricardo Liberato, Sage Ross, Aidan Jones/CC BY-SA 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources