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"I want that!" TV advertising has a bad influence on young eating habits


Every day, children are served up a barrage of television commercials telling them what to eat. According to J. Michael McGinnis, senior scholar at the Institute of Medicine (IOM), that's a problem: "Current food and beverage marketing practices put kids' long-term health at risk." McGinnis's findings appear in a report, Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?, issued recently by the IOM's committee on food marketing and the diets of children and youth.

The IOM committee, chaired by McGinnis, found strong evidence that advertising of foods and beverages on TV directly influences what children choose to eat-and what they often choose is high in calories and low in nutrients. Advertisers aren't likely to change their marketing strategies soon; the food and beverage market aimed at children and adolescents is a $200-billion-a-year industry.

TV advertising is not the only medium contributing to this problem. The Web, video and computer games, and strategic product placement, such as in schools and within TV programs and movies, also target youth for marketing of products. And the top four items that children ages 8 to 12 years say that they can buy without their parents' permission are—no surprise—high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages.

Among the committee's proposed fixes is that the government and schools develop and apply nutritional standards for all foods and beverages (including those sold in school stores and vending machines and for fundraising) sold by schools receiving federal funding for reimbursable meals.

The US Food and Drug Administration in December approved the use of Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) for preventing seasonal influenza in children 1 to 12 years old.

Tamiflu's labeled use had previously been for prevention and treatment of flu in children 13 years and older, as well as in adults.

Two separate studies show that Merck & Co.'s and GlaxoSmithKline's human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines appear highly effective in preventing cervical cancer, vulvar cancer, and genital warts.

The recently completed trials involved Merck's Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline's experimental vaccine. Earlier studies showed that Gardasil also protects against cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN)-precancerous lesions that can develop into cervical cancer.

After an unsuccessful attempt to persuade pharmaceutical companies to fund further research on a head lice treatment he says he discovered and developed, dermatologist Dale Pearlman, MD, has revealed that the treatment is actually a brand-name over-the-counter skin cleanser.

This is the time of year when over-the-counter cold and flu preparations fly off store shelves as parents administer these products to their cough-, runny nose-, and congestion-plagued children. But a word to the wise from you can be key: Parents need to know that, just because these medications are sold over-the-counter, doesn't mean they shouldn't be used according to directions on the bottle or box.

Parents' complaints about sudden mood swings of teenagers are common, but new research shows that children who experience early-life stresses such as abuse, neglect, or loss of a parent have an increased risk in adolescence of behavioral and emotional disorders.

The research, conducted on rhesus macaque monkeys at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University and at the University of Pittsburgh, suggests that adolescents who have been exposed to early-life stress have a greater incidence of developing an attachment disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety, depression, suicide, drug abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder.


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