Commentary: Junk Food Commercials Are Targeting Latino Kids In Childhood Obesity Epidemic Fight

When I was a child and my family first came to the U.S., I remember going to McDonald’s and drinking a lot of soda constantly. Although I was always a bit on the chubby site, it wasn’t long before my weight ballooned up thanks to all of the junk food advertising I was suddenly seeing everywhere. 

I remember fighting with my mom as a teen, when she tried to get me to cut back on my soda habit. I refused. It shouldn’t have surprised me when, a couple of years later, my weight hit 200 pounds. At 5’2”, that was quite a big number. 

Although I’ve often asked myself how I got there, I knew even back then when I was fighting with mami that she was right: my terrible eating habits had a lot to do with my weight gain as a child. 

It turns out I’m not alone. A new study is shedding light on why the childhood obesity epidemic is affecting Latino communities more than others. 

According to new findings published in the Journal of Health Communication, Spanish television programming for children contains many more junk-food ads than similar shows in English. Researchers found that 84 percent of ads targeting Spanish-speaking kids actually promoted high-fat, sugary foods. 

They also found that industry self-regulation was less effective on Spanish-language channels and that ads promoting fruits, vegetables, whole grains or other healthy foods accounted for less than one percent of the time. 

With advertisers targeting Latino kids to promote their worst-ranked foods, as determined by a food rating system from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is this the leading cause of why our children are overweight?