Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nutrition and Advertising Aimed at Children

For anyone wondering if advertising to children pays off all you need to do is look at the the indoor playgrounds at McDonalds and the cartoon characters adorning cold cereal boxes. The advertising industry understands the power that children have as consumers and that is why they aggressively market their products to children.

Despite not having excessive disposable income, children and adolescents influence the purchasing choices their parents make. This factor is referred to as “pester power” by marketers. They are also marketed to at an early age because advertisers understand that children are future adult consumers. The sooner a marketer can develop product recognition and loyalty the more money in makes them in the long run.

To familiarize myself with this topic I thought I'd do some practical research. I have a lot of kids but we don't have cable TV and my kids seldom watch television. It's been a long time since I've watched cartoons so I checked them out recently to see what kind of advertising was associated with them. Side note-After seeing the kind of cartoons people watch today I made the following post entitled Ugly Cartoon Characters on my other blog.

Some of the research I looked into showed that kids actually watch less TV on Saturday mornings than they used to years ago, but they now watch more prime time television. I can't say I blame companies for advertising to kids, but the problem is most of their products are for cold cereal, pop, candy, and other high calorie and low nutrient foods. You just don't see the same bright colorful packaging and emphasis on foods like whole grains and fruits and vegetables. I'm not the kind of person who complains about this and expects the government to make excessive rules about advertising, but I do think parents should be aware of the marketing efforts being directed at their kids since childhood obesity is more prevalent than it has ever been before.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Molecules of Emotion

I recently finished reading Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert PHD. This book was interesting but it took a while to unfold. I found the science side interesting and although I understood the basic concepts the author was describing I have to admit most of it was over my head. This book would have been more difficult to follow had the author not shared her personal experiences about her career. I thought her stories about the politics of research and her unfair treatment due to being a female scientist were much more interesting than the specific scientific discoveries and accomplishments featured in the book. I was also surprised to learn the field of science could be as competitive and as professional sports or an episode of Survivor.

Due to the title of the book I was expecting more information about emotions and human health, but found myself wondering when she was going to address the practical application of this topic. By the time I was half way through the book I still wasn't sure if I had purchased the right book. The book highlights her quest for several scientific discoveries in the field of psychoneuroimmunology. I was impressed with the amount of persistence Pert showed as she consistently came across obstacles and setbacks prior to each break through. Some of these were scientific setbacks but many were due to working with other people and having to deal with the politics of each institution or organization she worked for. I found it ironic that despite the competitive nature of her work there was quite a bit of collaboration and cooperation that helped propel these scientists on to their next hypothesis or discovery.

It wasn't until about two thirds into the book that the practical application of mind body medicine was emphasized and that was what I was looking for. As the book progresses, Pert tells of her "conversion" from a strict modern scientist to her acceptance of traditional and Eastern mind/body/spirit practices. I think her endorsement of many of these practices lends some much needed credibility to Alternative medicine since she was such an accomplished scientist coming from the other end of the spectrum. Overall I found this book to be enlightening even though it didn't address the aspects I was most interested immediately.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Culprit & The Cure

I recently read The Culprit & The Cure by Steven C. Aldana. The subtitle to the book is "Why lifestyle is the culprit behind America's poor health and how transforming that lifestyle can be the cure". This book is an excellent guide to making simple lifestyle changes. The author is a PHD and obviously has a scientific background but he has written the book in a way which is very easy to read and understand. He takes the same approach that I do with this blog by attempting to keep things simple so they appeal to the masses. (No I'm not insinuating that you are dumb if you read my blog.)

This book very clearly points out that the diseases that are the biggest causes of death and illness in America today can often be prevented or delayed by living a healthy lifestyle. The author emphasizes a diet based on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and stresses the healthy eating pyramid as opposed to the older food pyramid guidelines that many of us grew up with. He doesn't prohibit meat or dairy but suggests consuming them in moderation.

Many times throughout the book he stresses "that in order to attain the most benefits from physical activity that all individuals should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week." He gives many great suggestions how people can increase their activity level and become more active. I liked this book because he focused on the basics of eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly which are two vital parts to maintaining a healthy body weight.

If you are looking for an enlightening book that will encourage you to eat healthier, exercise regularly, and develop a healthy lifestyle then I highly recommend The Culprit & The Cure. It focuses on simple lifestyle changes not the latest fad diets, or extreme measures. The more I learn about wellness and fitness, the more I think success really boils down to the little daily habits that we consistently make because they make a huge difference over time. I really believe that the majority of our nation's health problems could be solved if individuals would just incorporate the simple principles this book promotes.