The causes of obesity


Madam, - I agree with Michael Cullen (April 14th) that the causes of obesity, particularly in children, are multiple and complex. Research shows that a combination of sedentary lifestyles, inactivity and poor diet with excessive intakes of high-fat, high-sugar, junk foods are the principal culprits.

The Green Party, in its position paper on combating childhood obesity, put forward a comprehensive list of proposals aimed at increasing physical activity and exercise among children.

These included proposals to amend the planning act so that open spaces, playgrounds and recreational facilities will be mandatory in all housing developments over a certain size and measures to promote the "Safe Routes to School" scheme, so that more children can safely walk to school.

Increasing the number of playgrounds and restoring the physical education and sports grant to schools are also included in the measures proposed by the Green Party to promote enjoyable lifelong physical activity among children and young people.

These measures are indeed necessary to help combat the scourge of obesity among the young. However, it remains the case that parents efforts to encourage a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, are counteracted by advertisements which appear between programmes watched by young children.

Bombarding children with images of burgers, biscuits, crisps and fizzy drinks is irresponsible. These high fat, high sugar and high salt foods and drinks can cause obesity and type-two diabetes.

Preventing these kinds of foods being foisted on children - particularly pre-school children, who have no understanding of the nature of advertising - is very difficult in the face of such a powerful medium.

The submission by the Institute of Advertisers of Ireland to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, makes astonishing reading. It includes the type of arguments that were used by the smoking industry in the past. They argue, "Research does not support the view that food advertising is particularly influential in dictating the individual child or family diet".

This is quite a claim from the advertising industry - that basically its advertising in ineffective! I don't suppose they use such arguments when they are billing their clients.

As Editor of Marketing Magazine, Mr Cullen must be well aware of the power of advertising. For this reason, the Green Party is in favour of a Europe wide ban on television advertising of junk food, as well as promoting physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle. - Yours, etc.,


European Parliamen Offices,

Molesworth Street,

Dublin 2.