The results of a new study have exposed another hurdle in the fight against childhood obesity in the Latino community.
Thanks to the welcoming faces of popular cartoons like SpongeBob SquarePants or “Bob Esponja,” Latino children are being inundated with images of high-fat, sugary foods each time they turn on the television.
A new study has found that Spanish television programming for children is packed with more junk-food ads than the same type of shows in English.
The research found 84 percent of ads aimed at Spanish-speaking kids promoted foods ranked in the worst of three food categories devised by federal health officials.
The ads promoted fruits, vegetables, whole grains or other healthy foods less than one percent of the time.
“Eating patterns established during youth persist into adulthood,” Dale Kunkel, a professor of communications at the University of Arizona and the lead researcher on the study, told Forbes.
“Children who develop the habit of eating fast food at a young age are going to be at heightened risk for diabetes and other obesity-related conditions later in life.”
At 43 percent, the number of Latinos ages 2-19 who are overweight is 5 percent higher than in the non-Latino community.
And since exposure to television food marketing is a contributing factor, it comes as no surprise that these findings have prompted concern.
“These companies use these insidious marketing practices to grab kids very early in an effort to build brand loyalty,” Juliet Sims, a registered dietitian who works at Prevention Institute, told Forbes.
“And they’re going after children of color even more aggressively.”
The good news is, in the past six months it was reported that the rate of childhood obesity has fallen slightly among low-income families.
Findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in December 2012 showed a modest decline in obesity rates among children ages 2-4 from poorer households.
“The declines we’re presenting here are pretty modest, but it is a change in direction,” study author Dr. Heidi M. Blanck told the New York Times. “We were going up before. And this data shows we’re going down. For us, that’s pretty exciting.”
According to the Times, in the past year major cities throughout the country have reported obesity declines among several parts of their student population. Specific reasons weren’t mentioned, but implementing school exercise programs, encouraging physical fitness, as well as providing healthier options at cafeterias may be some potential factors.