Public health experts urge Bollywood celebs and cricketers to not endorse junk food

The Indian television and newspapers bombard people with the advertising of such unhealthy foods. Children are easily influenced and are lured in by such advertisements, plus the added ‘star’ factor lets children believe that the product they are consuming is good for them as it ‘normalises’ the usage of that product

TV ads and childhood obesity interlinked

  • Public health experts in India have urged celebrities to stop endorsing food products that contain high sugar, fat, and salt.
  • Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI), a body formed by eminent doctors has written a letter to Bollywood personalities.
  • Doctors have also sent the letter to the Union Health Ministry and NITI Aayog.

Childhood obesity continues to be a major threat to the world. Today, India has the second-highest number of obese children next to China. Obesity, being the mother of all the diseases has prompted the public health experts to shot a letter to the leading Bollywood celebs and cricketers, who are endorsing food products that contain high sugar, fat, and salt.

A number of celebrities these days endorse food products on TV. But, what the celebrities are not aware of is how junk food products could have implications to the diet and health of young viewers.

Even though the occurrence of obesity among children was lower than adults, childhood obesity has grown at a faster rate than adult obesity in many countries. In 2015, over 2 billion children and adults across the world were overweight.

The letter states,

‘You may be aware of the harmful impact of ‘unhealthy foods’ (foods with high sugar and salt, and ultra-processed foods. It includes obesity, diabetes, and cancers.

A recent study published in the ‘British Medical Journal’ suggests that increased daily consumption of about 3.4 ounces of soda was associated with an 18% greater risk of some cancers.

None of the advertisements declare the amount of sugar or salt in the product or being ultra-processed.’

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Arun Gupta, Child and Nutritional Advocate, who is a part of Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI), said, “The Bollywood celebrities are involved in the marketing of unhealthy foods as a brand ambassador. Our sincere request to them as responsible citizens of India is to reconsider their decision and call off such endorsements.”

Dr Gupta said, “We have received a response from the Union health minister, saying its a good suggestion, and we will follow it.”

According to public health experts, globally, over two million children and adults suffer from health ailments related to being overweight.

To explain simply: having a packet of noodles (70 g) in a day, a person consumes 42% of the daily recommended sodium, while WHO recommends < 2 g sodium consumption per day.

Similarly, sugary drinks, chocolates, energy drinks, sweet wafers, biscuit and cola drinks have been found crossing the sugar threshold as recommended by WHO i.e. 5.7 g/100g. For example, by having one 300 ml cola can you consume 66% of the daily sugar requirement.

“A number of researchers have proven that food products which contain high sugar, salt and, fat are the major contributor to childhood obesity. Products like these are promoted and vulnerable children are their prime targets. So, we are requesting the Bollywood celebs that are the youth icons to stop endorsing these products,” added Dr Gupta.