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Move over, cigarettes. Junk food is the new bad guy of TV and film

February 9, 2010 |  3:03 pm

Cigarette "They're actors -- they don't really do these things in real life..." "Just because something's shown on TV or in the movies doesn't mean it's OK..."  "It's just to give actors something to do with their hands...

Our media portrayals of junk-food talk needs some work. But we'd better get cracking. The data is stacking up, and public service commercials admonishing us to sit our kids down and have earnest parent-child communication about the glamorization of poor nutrition can't be too far behind.

Ketchup Here are two studies released this week.

- Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School analyzed the use of food, beverage and restaurant brands in the top 20 movies for each year from 1996 through 2005. They concluded: "Food, beverage, and food retail establishment brands are frequently portrayed in movies, and most of the brand placements are for energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods or product lines. Movies are a potent source of advertising to children, which has been largely overlooked."

Here's the study, published online Monday in Pediatrics.

- UCLA researchers, meanwhile, analyzed the shows that children watched and the kids' body mass index. They concluded: "The evidence does not support the contention that television viewing contributes to obesity because it is a sedentary activity. Television advertising, rather than viewing per se, is associated with obesity."

Here's the abstract, published online Monday in the American Journal of Public Health, and the news release.

The research is new, insightful and relevant -- suggesting ways to protect the health of future generations. And yet ... it all seems so familiar.

Here's some advice from on talking to your kids about smoking. Perhaps some word substitutions are in order.

"Explain how much (fried snack food) governs the daily life of kids who start doing it. How do they afford the (fried snack food)? How do they have money to pay for other things they want? How does it affect their friendships?"

It could work.

-- Tami Dennis

Top photo credit: Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images. Bottom photo credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times