Monday, February 15, 2010

Spain aiming to ban anorexia inducing ads

Want to know the number one predictor for the development of an eating disorder? Poor body image. And in an attempt to minimize the effect of the media on body image there's a bill proposed in Spain that will ban television commercials for plastic surgery and "slimming products" before 10pm.

Interestingly in the early stages of the bill there was also a provision regarding banning promotions for low-fat foods. I guess lawmakers figured that the ads therein would also be busily promoting what they're calling, "the cult of the body".

Now I'm all for banning these types of advertisements which in turn may indeed be contributing to eating disorders such as anorexia among Spanish youth. But where's the ban that might help with obesity?

According to a recent article in European Psychiatry, the incidence of eating disorders among Spanish adolescent girls is in the neighbourhood of 5% where roughly 75% will recover and 25% will face difficult long term courses.

Now let's peek at Spanish overweight and obesity rates. Roughly 45% of Spanish adults are overweight and 13% are obese. Among Spanish children the rates back in 1995 were 15% obese and 35% overweight.

Sure makes you wonder about priorities.

The thing is, it's easy politically to look at banning "slimming product" and plastic surgery advertisements - they don't have a tremendous lobby. Food on the other hand does which is likely why the provision to extend the ban to advertisements for low-fat foods was quickly stripped from the bill.

At the end of the day Big Food is a force to be reckoned with and even though banning advertisements for junk foods almost certainly would have an impact on rates of childhood and adult obesity (more on this tomorrow), rates orders of magnitude higher than those of eating disorders, you can bet your bottom euro that the Spanish parliament isn't going to be entertaining a ban on them any time soon.