Ad stop for burger, coke and co.!

Being overweight and obese presents serious health problems not only for adults, but also for children and adolescents. Epidemiological data of the past decades shows a continuous upward trend in the average weight in young people globally. So far, Europe and the United States of America have been affected most with 20 to 30% of children being overweight or obese. However, Asian, African and South American countries are also increasingly affected by this development. Being overweight at a young age is a risk factor that can cause many physical and mental issues. In addition to a genetic predisposition, the main causes of obesity include super- and malnutrition as well as a sedentary lifestyle.

Children are very vulnerable to external influences. Unlike tobacco and alcohol, unhealthy foods are omnipresent in the media and in public spaces and affect children's consumerism and dietary habits. US Studies revealed that children see up to twelve food ads on average per hour on television. Of these ads, a large proportion advertises products that are high in sugar, fat, or salt. It has also been shown in many other countries that the majority of advertised foods can be classified as unhealthy. To counteract the growing risk of obesity at a young age, the demands to restrict the freedom of commercial expression for unhealthy foods are starting to become more insistent.

Despite countless position papers and self-regulatory statements from the food industry, it is the government's responsibility to limit the impact unhealthy foods has on the youngest of our society.During the 1990s, Scandinavia took the lead and at the beginning of the new millennium other countries followed suit. The most common measures include advertising bans on television and radio during children's programs as well as sponsorship bans at youth events and limited access to unhealthy food in schools. However, advertising regulations are no longer relevant today; television and radio have lost much of their relevance in favor of the internet. For this reason, the British government responded by tightening existing laws and expanding their advertising ban on Internet platforms, print media, and cinema advertising last year.

Experts agree that preventive measures have a positive cost-benefit ratio and are particularly effective for children and adolescents. A far-reaching advertising ban is an important step, but decisive action is just as necessary as promoting a healthy lifestyle. Politics, educational institutions, and parents are responsible for teaching children healthy dietary habits and how to lead an active lifestyle. It is also important to recognize and treat obesity in children and adolescents at an early stage. In addition, weight checks at home and during every doctor's visit should become routine. If we don't want obesity to become one of the key health issues of the 21st century, complex countermeasures need to be taken today. Young people are an important target group and with a combination of different methods we could not only stop this unfortunate weight trend but even reverse its effects in the near future.

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