The impact of food advertising to children – why we must protect our most vulnerable citizens

Globally, the prevalence of paediatric overweight and obesity has risen dramatically over the last 30 years and is now widely considered to qualify as an epidemic. In many countries, a third of young people suffer from excess adiposity, which is associated with a raft of medical co-morbidities such as type 2 diabetes and some cancers, as well as a reduced quality of life and poorer socioeconomic outcomes. This is a concern not only for the individuals and families involved, but also for society as a whole, as health services and employers struggle to cope with the financial implications of an overweight population. In this article, Emma Boyland looks at the role of pervasive food advertising via television and other media in driving up the numbers of children worldwide who are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, and makes a call for intervention to prevent further related damage to health.