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Do junk food ads contribute to childhood obesity?

Yes. Decades of research confirm the link between junk food advertising and obesity. In June 2013, the World Health Organization called for tighter controls on food marketing to kids, calling obesity "one of the biggest public health challenges of the 21st century."

While limits on marketing junk food to kids may have an effect, ultimately, parents hold the keys to helping kids recognize junk food ads, view them critically, avoid being seduced by them, and make healthy choices.

Here are some basic tips to get started.

  • Limit exposure as much as possible. Keep the TV out of kids' bedrooms, watch pre-recorded shows and DVDs when possible, and mute commercials.
  • Make ad-recognition a game. Point out all the sneaky ways that advertisers market unhealthy food, including product placements, website games, and guerilla marketing. Kids don't like to be tricked, so they'll enjoy sleuthing out not-so-obvious ads.
  • Ask what's being sold. Remember, it's the sizzle that sells the steak. Strip away the special effects, and the item being pushed actually looks kind of dull, doesn't it?
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