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This weight-loss message was brought to you by the makers of Oreos

October 5, 2009 |  2:09 pm

The makers of Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Chef Boyardee canned pasta, Oreo cookies and Snickers bars are joining forces to combat … obesity.

That’s right. Nestle USA, ConAgra Foods, Kraft Foods Inc. and Mars, Inc. – along with the Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., Hershey Co., Sara Lee Corp. and other giant food manufacturers – today announced the launch of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. The goal of this new initiative is to reduce obesity, particularly in kids, by an unspecified amount over the next six years.

JunkfoodEating less junk food may – or may not – be part of the solution. Participating companies are welcome to reformulate their products and reduce portion sizes, but they’re under no obligation to do so.

Instead, the emphasis is on the notion of “energy balance.” Regardless of what you eat, you’ll gain weight if the total number of calories consumed is greater than the number of calories burned through exercise and other activities. As David Mackay, the chairman of the foundation’s board, put it, kids and adults could do a better job of balancing their “calories in and calories out.”

It’s a convenient message for Mackay, who is also the president and CEO of Pop-Tart, Cheez-It and Keebler cookie-maker Kellogg Co. (Its Froot Loops and other cereals may or may not be considered health foods, depending on who you ask.)

Safeway Inc. and other large grocers are also part of the coalition, which has pledged $20 million to the don’t-necessarily-eat-less-but-definitely-exercise-more effort. As one skeptical consumer commented on a CBC News website: “$20M doesn't seem like very much for these huge companies. What is that, like 6 Super Bowl commercials?”

The foundation also includes several nonprofits, such as the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition Foundation, PE4life and the American Dietetic Assn. Foundation. The ADA was in hot water recently for appearing to back – and then backing away from – the controversial Smart Choices food labeling system.

Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said she would be keeping the new initiative honest by tracking its progress and evaluating whether it is making “a significant difference for our nation’s children.” RWJF has committed $500 million – or roughly 150 Super Bowl commercials – to reducing childhood obesity by 2015.

The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation does not yet appear to have sprung for a website detailing its efforts, but a news release can be found here.

-- Karen Kaplan

Photo: Can you eat like this if you just exercise more? Photo credit: Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times

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Comments (30)

This seems antithetical to their actual business. It's like a cigarette company sponsoring "smoking causes cancer" ads. Do they really think the public will think they are sincere?

Epic fail. The problem isn't calories, it's carbohydrates. Until oreos become made out of meat and cheese, you'll still get fat eating them.

High insulin makes fat cells hold onto fat.

High blood sugar makes insulin levels high.

Eating carbohydrates makes blood sugar levels high.

Want to stop getting fat? Stop eating carbs.

For more info, google for "Gary Taubes Berkeley", and listen to his lecture on "Good Calories, Bad Calories".

Reduce portion size? Pure Genius! The cookies will be half the size so I get to eat twice as many..!

The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation wants kids to count calories? Do they even know what a calorie is? Does this give food makers license to reduce the size of their products but keep the price the same? In the Mediterranean area and in Japan they don't eat Oreo cookies, for Mars bars, or Fruit Loops. And they are lean. Americans are being bred to be fat. This Foundation is just window dressing to be politically correct. That's right, blame it on the kids who eat too much, not on the food makers. Got it. Now you can resume eating your Oreos.

Lisa, perhaps not. However have you ever seen the movie "Thank you For Smoking?"

Smaller portions. Same price. Thank you Oreo.

To suggest that exercise can mitigate a high calorie, high fat, high sugar diet is bunk. The research results here are clear. The strongest determinants of diseases such as cardiac disease, diabetes, and several forms of cancer in this country can be directly linked to diet independent of exercise (though exercise certainly helps, a lot).

For these "food" company execs to suggest that their products can be tolerated at the current consumption rates is contradicted by decades of scientific evidence.

Tune in next week for Haliburton's "Coalition for Peace" a $3.95 commitment to promote international understanding by encouraging people to try out non-U.S.-made guns.

I strongly disagree about this article. when i was sick i needed to gain weight and i did so my eating 2 or 3 oreos a night without eating throughtout the day. so your studies are wrong.

The kids are going to eat this stuff, and worse, with or without the companies getting involved. I think it's better that we use the attention they get from kids to hold that and teach them something worth listening to.
-Principal of Edmondson Elem.

Aside from the fact that unhealthy food is still unhealthy if you exercise a lot, there's another problem. If you habitually eat without restraint and keep your weight down by exercising, what happens if you get an injury that prevents the exercise but doesn't decrease your appetite?

This isn't at all unlikely. Heavy exercise does tend to accelerate wear and tear and cause periodic injuries. Then you gain weight, and it's a difficult spiral to reverse, because the weight gain is likely to worsen the injury, and vice versa.

Right, because they're going to suddenly inspire unhealthy kids to start jogging 5 miles a day. If they truly wanted to be helpful, they would start by reducing the crap in their junk food. This is a purely PR move.

There's a Web site, not that it reveals much:

what a cynical joke...
as somebody points out, bad food, with bad fat (and trans fat) will remain so, even if you run a marathon every day.
Probably a convenient way for them to shift the blame on the TV / couch potato culture, like Hitler calling Stalin a dictator...
Getting your kids to eat fruits and veggies will save their lifes, but it's an heroic endaveour, seeing how they are bombarded by ads and peer pressure all day long. Fight the agro-biz machine!!!

Your article is pretty cynical. People buy millions of these things because they like 'em. That is ok in a free country right? Corporations are highly optimized for giving people what they want at low prices.

If the companies want to educate kids and consumers about personal responsibility, that is ok. At least give them a break for trying to help.

The website is available -- was yesterday too.

Try wearing wearable weights like “Body Togs” scientifically designed weighted sleeves worn on your arms & legs under your clothes that increase calorie burn, muscle tone & bone density. Weighted vests work great too!

" That's right, blame it on the kids who eat too much, not on the food makers. "

Blame it on the parents who buy primarily junk food, and let their kids watch TV for 5 hours a night and don't encourage them to go outside and play sports.

I really comes down to the parents and their responsibility to teach their children proper nutrition and exercise.

Perhaps we should hire a fox to monitor the hen house. is fighting childhood obesity. Our model is called ,SHARED ACCOUNTABILITY.


The website is for the new organization.

What it comes down to is education and practicing what you know. The unfortunate thing is that these companies are going to be "experts" on health for children, and most likely, many adults who will turn to them as a guide of what they should eat. By advocating exercise , these companies are just giving its consumers an excuse to eat more of their products that are full of trans fats, enriched flour, and basically no fiber. This is scary.

It's interesting these large companies that dominate the food industry may - or may not - consider ating less junk food as part of their campaign to reduce childhood obesity; might consider reforumlating their products and reducing portions sizes, but might not. Until they commit to change, in solid, evidence-based methods, it's not going to happen. Change takes commitment and unfortunately, they are worried about their bottom line!

There is only one way these people can assist with decreasing child and adult obesity. To replace their flour with wheat free gluten free flours and to eliminate sugars by replacing with erythritol/stevia. No other way.

I can just see it now. "Eat responsibly." Kind of like the liquor ads that read 'drink responsibly." Well, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but....

Studies have shown that more exercise is great, but if you want to lose weight you HAVE TO EAT BETTER AND EAT LESS.
More P.R. tomfoolery here from the usual suspects.

No one is forcing people to buy junk food. The supermarkets have just as much healthy foods as junk foods. You just need to walk past the aisle to see the fresh produce.

We have become a sedentary population. The other day I saw fresh chopped onions in a bag, so that people can put in their burgers. That's how lazy we have become.



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