Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Most Marketed Foods are Least Healthy

The typical box cover of Lucky CharmsImage via Wikipedia

New report on marketing spending and nutrient content of cereals confirms once again that the most marketed foods are among the worst for health.

This report has spurred numerous blogs (by Marion Nestle, ABC News, etc) and a lot of debate.
Many think that eating healthy food is solely our own responsibility and the industry should not be blamed. Is it really so?

Eating used to be just a biological function based on energetic needs until food industry had discovered that it could be transformed into addiction. Combining fat, salt and sugar with flavors, textures and visual appeal can make us crave, stimulate our brains to want more, and wire us to overeat. Our bodies are not supposed to crave for unhealthy ingredients, researchers have shown that we are happy to eat non-sweetened food without unneeded additives.

Indeed, we just need "to understand why we eat what we eat", says Dr. David Kessler, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and former dean of the Yale School of Medicine. But it may not be easy for most of us - without health-warning labels and regulations. Taste, preferences acquired during childhood and adolescence, friends & family, and media have more influence on what we eat than our understanding of what is healthy and what is not. In 1997, food manufacturers spent 44.4% of their advertising budget on prepared convenience foods, confectionery, snacks, bakery goods compared with only 2.2% on fruits, vegetables, grains and beans. Yale report finds that of the 19 brands marketed in 2008 through early 2009, only Kellogg Mini-Wheats received a healthy nutrition rating. The six worst brands belong to General Mills: Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Nut Cheerios, Trix, Reeses’s Puffs and Cocoa Puffs. Post follows with their Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles brand. Finally, Kellogg Frosted Flakes, Corn Pops and Froot Loops complete the worst offenders list. These cereals with the lowest nutrition quality were marketed directly to children in high volumes on television, the internet and in the supermarket.

Aurametrix supports Dr. Kessler's call for action asking for:
  1. All restaurants to list calorie counts for all their dishes;
  2. All food products to carry labels revealing added sugars, refined carbs and fats;
  3. Better public education about food, nutrition and addiction
  4. AND food marketing to be monitored and exposed

We might even need cigarette-like health-warning labels... as in video-games.

Aurametrix is working on tools to help you evaluate your personal health risks and benefits and make the right health & food choices.
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